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Survivor of Hamas attack on music festival: I ran, hid and texted my family I love them

todayDecember 3, 2023 2

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Syracuse, N.Y. — As a former DJ, Millet Ben Haim looked forward to attending the Nova music festival near Re’im in Israel on Oct. 7.

She – like several thousand others – gathered to dance, party and enjoy the music that weekend. A little after dawn that Saturday, she heard rockets. The rave stopped. But soon the shooting started.

“We’re running in every direction,” she said. “And every direction we try to go, we have more people running towards us being shot. We found ourselves going back and forward, trying to avoid the terrorist and the bullets.”

Hiding with others, Ben Haim said she accepted she might die and texted her family one last time.

“I wrote that I love them and that I am happy with the life I have,” she said. “I knew they were going to go through this, kind of, losing me, so I wanted them to have something.”

Ben Haim, 27, survived, but more than 360 people died at the festival in the surprise attack by Hamas fighters. Festivalgoers have described how the gunmen blocked roads and ambushed escaping cars.

In all, an estimated 1,400 people died in the attacks in southern Isarael and about 246 people were taken hostage. In response, Israel has attacked the Gaza Strip, killing at least 13,300 people.

On Saturday night, Ben Haim spoke to more than 70 people who crowded into Temple Concord in Syracuse to hear the story of how she and others survived the attack. She also spoke to Syracuse University students on Thursday night.

Ben Haim, who has spoken to newspapers, news sites and television networks, is touring the United States to share her story of how she spent 12 hours trying to escape with friends, dodging bullets and hiding before they were rescued by a stranger.

The music festival, near Kibbutz Re’im, was held just three miles from a fence that divides Israel from the Gaza Strip. It was one of the first targets for Hamas attackers.

After seeing the rockets and the shooting on festival grounds, Ben Haim said her friends wanted to stay with security. But she said it was clear to her they needed to leave.

She tried to keep her friends together throughout the attack. The group tried to flee by car but were met with shooting in all directions.

“You don’t just hear shooting, you hear the whistle of the bullets,” Ben Haim said. “We know they’re aiming at us right now.”

The group decided to split up and look for refuge. Along with a few others, Ben Haim said they hid in a grassy valley with bushes and covered themselves with leaves.

They lay there for hours, prayed together and tried to contact their families on phones whose batteries were dying. With no assurance of rescue, that’s when she texted her family one last time that she loved them.

While hiding, Ben Haim posted videos to Instagram and asked for help. She was connected to Rami Davidian, a farmer in the area who helped rescue many people that day.

She and the others she was hiding with were rescued by him later that day, Ben Haim said.

Covered bodies of Hamas militants can be seen at the site of a music festival after Israeli forces managed to secure areas around Re’im. (Ilia Yefimovich/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)Ilia Yefimovich/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

As Ben Haim told her story in Syracuse, sniffles and whispers could be heard throughout the temple.

As Ben Haim took questions toward the end, she was asked why she shares her experience with the world. She said she wanted to remind the world of what happened that day. She did this by joining the Faces of Oct. 7 project, a group of speakers and survivors of the Hamas attack.

Temple Concord ended the night by singing the Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. The song title means “The Hope.”

Memorial

The photos of people killed and taken captive by Hamas militants during their violent rampage through the Nova music festival in southern Israel are displayed at the site of the event, as Israeli DJs spun music, to commemorate the October 7, massacre, near Kibbutz Re’im, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)AP

Syracuse.com’s Timia Cobb can be reached at tdcobb@syr.edu.



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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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