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Young artist recounts Hamas attack on Supernova Music Festival in Israel

Terrified of being discovered, I slowed my breathing and joined the seven people hiding there. The had fractures and injuries; the blood was everywhere.

  • 3 months ago
  • December 3, 2023
8 min read
Daniela's camping site at the Supernova Music Festival | Photo courtesy of Daniela Gimena Russo Daniela's camping site at the Supernova Music Festival | Photo courtesy of Daniela Gimena Russo
Journalist’s notes
Interview subject
Daniela Gimena Russo, a 36-year-old multifaceted artist, combines her talents as a DJ, event producer, and tattoo artist with a passion for travel. Over the past five years, her journey has taken her through Latin America and Europe, culminating in a visit to Tel Aviv on October 1, 2023, after stops in Paris and Hungary. What was intended to be a night of enjoyment in Israel turned into a harrowing experience when the attack by Hamas disrupted the event. Amidst chaos and fear, Daniela and her friends narrowly escaped the terrorist attack, which tragically claimed hundreds of lives at the festival.
background information
The recent war between Israel and Hamas, the deadliest since 2007, escalated with Hamas’s surprise attack on Southern Israel on October 7, 2023. Israel reported about 1,200 people were killed and roughly 240 were taken hostage by the terrorists. In response, Israel began bombing Gaza and launched a ground campaign. As of the publishing of this story, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported that over 15,000 people have been killed there.

Re’im, Israel — During a recent trip to Europe, while attending a party in Athens, Greece, a friend invited our group to Israel. When we arrived in Tel Aviv, we received an invitation to attend the Supernova Music Festival near the Gaza Strip, in the middle of the desert. I never imagined the trip would be dangerous, nor did I anticipate the horrors I would encounter that day.

We arrived at the festival at night on Friday, October 6, 2023, and everything appeared perfectly organized. The crowd emanated peace and happiness. I watched as hundreds of young people danced together, enjoying the music and good times with friends. When we headed to the parking lot for a rest in our cars, something in the sky suddenly caught our attention. The festival was under attack. This began a frantic, hours-long nightmare on foot.

Read more Israeli–Palestinian conflict stories at Orato World Media

Rockets lit up at the sky at the Supernova Music Festival

Having arrived at the Supernova Music Festival in Israel on Friday night, we intended to stay and see our friend play at Noon on Saturday. Tents and lounge chairs dotted the grounds, as people prepared for the long weekend.

At our cars, we rested and talked for about an hour when suddenly, the sky lit up. Gazing up at what looked like colorful stars, I heard a roaring sound, and thought they were fireworks. When I noticed that a vast portion of the sky was dotted with explosions, worry settled in. “What is happening,” I thought.

Around that time, two of our friends walked away to leave something in their car. Little did we know, it marked the moment our group would be divided. The explosions and lights in the sky continued relentlessly, and a strange feeling settled over the festival. “These are not fireworks,” I thought. The music came to a complete stop and people began running. Moments later, an announcement in Hebrew echoed over the loudspeaker.

I did not understand the words and I watched as Israel’s defense shield detonated the missiles in the sky. Panic settled in all around me. Just then, a boy who spoke English, approached us and started translating the messages. He looked at us intently and shouted, “We have to get out of here! Do you have a car?” I answered yes and we took off for the parking lot. We intended to flee to Tel Aviv, but the young man urged us not to take the main road. “They will chase us,” he said. [He was referring to Hamas.]

A race to save our lives

The young man pointed toward a concrete sentry box a few meters away that acted as a bunker. We moved fast on foot in an attempt to escape. Meanwhile, we desperately called our friends who fled in the other car. Two of us had nearly dead cell phone batteries, complicating the situation even more. When we finally reached our two friends, a felt a second of peace.

“We are on the road already,” they said, “We are fine.” Just then, we heard shots on the call; we heard our friends screaming. As they tried to warn about something, the call suddenly went dead. “What is happening,” my mind shouted. I could not understand a thing.

We reconnected our call and in a broken voice, our friend pleaded, “It is not safe to travel by car.” The final word we heard on the call was, “Run,” before it disconnected forever. After staying for a few minutes in the bunker, I felt my survival instincts kick in, propelling me forward. I wanted to get as far away from the festival as possible. We took off and within minutes, saw the bunker explode into a thousand pieces from a grenade. This marked the start of our race to save our lives.

I ran across a field in my boots when I felt a sudden, intense pain in my ankle, so I took them off and continued barefoot. I never stopped for one second. Moving through an olive plantation, all I saw was desert. Passing between trees and bushes, we moved up and down the sloped terrain. One hundred percent of my body and mind entered survival mode, like it transformed somehow.

Huddled in a small shelter, blood was everywhere

The gunfire, explosions, and screams surrounded me, closing in on my body. Just then, one of my friends stopped running. He couldn’t take it anymore and he froze, crouching under a tree in the middle of nowhere. I could barely believe I left him there, but I needed to keep running; to save myself. Moving passed the olive plantation, I saw a container, like a small shelter. The desolate landscape surrounded it and otherwise, all I saw was an empty house and the desert.

Terrified of being discovered, I slowed my breathing and joined the seven people hiding there. The had fractures and injuries; the blood was everywhere. In the group, I noticed a female member of the Israeli army. She reached out to her colleagues and provided our location. Hours passed as we waited for rescue.

Then, suddenly amongst the trees in the distance, I saw military personnel emerge and cross the field. They located us and checked the wounded before trucks began arriving to take us out. We began crossing the desert and I saw more and more soldiers and trucks. I pleaded with the soldiers to go back and look for my friend who hid under the tree.

Somehow, before running out of battery, he managed to share his location with me. I gave it to the Israeli soldiers and an army tank moved in to locate him. By some miracle, after 12 total hours of hiding, they found him unharmed.

Waiting desperately for a plane out of Israel

Finally, we made our way toward safety. In the truck I whispered “thank you” in a low voice but could not shed a single tear. Shock had settled in. Looking back, I believe many angels accompanied me along the way; otherwise, I too might be dead.

Escaping the horrors of the Hamas attack on Israel, we took refuge in a police station. There, a family offered our group of 18 shelter and food. These strangers cared for all of us. With my phone charged, I began watching the news and could barely believe what I saw. The family helped us get to Tel Aviv and again, everything felt chaotic. In Tel Aviv, another difficult journey began.

We wanted to flee Israel quickly, but booking flights proved nearly impossible. At first the airlines would not accept our payments, but seeing our desperation, they gave in. All the while, alarms rang out continuously and rockets exploded in the distance. The entire atmosphere put us on constant alert. “We need to get out of here,” I thought. “There is no turning back.”

At the airport, to protect the people as best as possible, the airlines released planes at unexpected times. You had to pay attention closely for a sudden announcement then wait or run. The entire environment made me terribly nervous. After hours of waiting, they suddenly announced our flight, and we mobilized.

It was not until our plane crossed the sea, I finally felt safe from danger. When I try to talk about what happened, my voice falters. The unhealed wounds run deep.

Healing from the terror attack on the Supernova Music Festival

Looking back, I realize my loved ones back home gave me the strength to keep running. I thought about them while we fled the Supernova Music Festival; I thought about my unborn niece. We ran for seven hours before hiding and I still cannot understand how I ran for so long. I only know that every step of the way, my body pumped pure adrenaline.

The worst feeling I had during that escape was leaving my friend behind underneath the tree in an infernal wasteland, but I felt guided by an infinite desire to live. Back in Europe, I hugged my friends tightly and boarded another plane to Mexico, where I remain at the time of this story.

[Immediately after the attack on the Supernova Music Festival, media reported that about 260 bodies were recovered from the area, located in Re’im, just six kilometers from the Gaza border. Since then, reports have raised the death count of civilians at the festival to about 364, including another 40 taken hostage by Hamas.]

To this day, I have no news on my two friends who fled in their car. Hamas just hunted us down. They could be hostages, or they could be dead. They walked away from us five minutes before that brutal assault began, and I fear I will never see them again.

For a month and half, I did not shed a tear. Luckily, I am with people I love very much, who help me every day to repair this pain. With them, I am slowly healing and becoming more sensitive to the things I saw and endured. The block is lifting, as I give myself space to process and move forward.

I see the images in my mind every day; but I still believe love, not war, will save us. I focus on my projects and my music. It is time for change.

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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