The Iron Lions

Testimonials from the war in israel, Oct 23'

Rotem Yaakobi

Nova Festival

“There is no way to explain the pain, my heart is broken, and life will be different without all the people I love who are no longer with me. I thought a lot about whether to write something, but it is impossible. Let me begin by saying I’m ‘fine.’ My heart will be whole again when my friends come back to me and the main question: "Where are they?" will be answered. At sunrise, I was lifted onto my girlfriend's shoulders by her girlfriend, and we started seeing rockets and hearing interceptions. We were told by the festival managers ;this is not a joke, it is not a dream, there is red color (rockets alarm) and we should lay on the floor.’ At this point, we were still telling ourselves, everything will be fine, the music will come back.

We realize that rockets are raining down on us and we have to run. I got an anxiety attack on the way to the car. My knees went silent, my body locked up, and I lost my breath. Fortunately, my friends were always around me and brought me back to reality. It appeared that terrorists were outside the party and those who attempted to leave were shot at. As people started running, cars kept going, nobody really understood what was happening, and the police informed us it was best not to go outside because the place was surrounded by terrorists. Although we were still hoping that gunshots we hear were coming from the IDF soldiers, we had no idea what was going on outside. When we returned to the party area, I was taken to the area where the police had secured the event. I met a woman named Yamit, who assured me that everything would be fine; I called my mother to tell her that I love her and that I really don't know how I will survive.

Several minutes later, we heard screams that terrorists had penetrated the building. We saw gunshot wounds, people were falling, being shot from everywhere, and then the nightmare began. As soon as I saw the bullets I heard them hitting everywhere. The terrorists surrounded us and just shot from every direction; we couldn't see them, so it was impossible to figure out where they were firing from, we only saw people being shot and falling to the ground. It is impossible to explain the fear, the helplessness, the realization that my life would end here. In my opinion, the main frustration was watching the same "cleaning workers" with yellow vests continue to clean the party, following us like they were on their way to the supermarket. I think they knew from the beginning what was going to happen. Initially, we hid in the tents, thought about where we could escape, and ran toward the car. It was me, Kate, Lina and another person I wasn’t familiar with that entered the car to try and escape the festival area. We started to drive and we were looking to see where people drove to. We were among the last ones left in the parking lot, in retrospect we will understand why. 

We followed a black van, but this route led to Hamas terrorists who were standing and shooting people. People in the black van we followed threw an explosive device out of the window. We did a U-turn and escaped this route. 

As soon as we got onto another path, they started shooting at us from all directions even while driving, so we turned right at the intersection and headed for the main exiting route out of the festival territory. The road was filled with terrorists shooting at us from everywhere with machine guns. The road was filled with dead bodies of the party’s participants as well as cars filled with dead party participants and we had no choice but to drive on top of the dead bodies with our car. We almost flipped over twice, but Kate's driving saved us. We realized that the car was finished, but that we were still alive and that not a single bullet hit us, they only hit the wheels and the car.

We left the vehicle and hid in a thorn bush with half a bottle of water for 7 hours. We heard the whistles of the bullets, saw the impact in the sand, saw the bombs, and saw the rockets. For 7 hours we were inside the battlefield. Our position was between Be’eri and Reim. We called the police, every possible rescue force and they all hung up on us. There was no rescue force, no one heard us. Later we learned that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) knew the location, but it was difficult for them to get up close since the place was surrounded by terrorists. We were found by citizens from Gaza that crossed the border to Israel after 4 and a half hours of hiding, they were armed. The guy that was with us immediately intervened so they wouldn't see us. He spoke to them in Arabic, and they asked for water and cigarettes. After two minutes we heard the car start and drive away - they stole it. 

After seven hours of lying there dehydrated, scared, praying to God that someone would come, a man named Elad, Elad Lauper, called Kate's phone. I took the phone and cried to him that I was begging, I've never begged like that, begging for him to come, he told me to stay on the line, he was on his way. Despite the destruction of the entire area, he took us out of there, with his van and another man whose name I don't know. He gave us water and told us not to rush outside or see the bodies until they arrived. At the assembly grounds, they took us by bus to Beer Sheva where my father was waiting for me. And this is where the story ends."