The Iron Lions
Testimonials from the war in israel, Oct 23'
Harrowing testimony from the inferno: The friend who saved Shir Bitshvo's life
The friend who became a savior. The friends she saw falling before her eyes. The prayers and horror. Shir Bitshvo from Rishon LeZion returned from the festival that became hell, and sends a message to families who have yet to locate their loved ones: Many were injured from running or buried themselves in the ground, don't lose hope.
Swords of Iron on the third day.
Around 260 bodies have already been found at the Nova festival site in Re'im that turned into a slaughter scene in one moment.
The harrowing testimonies are being exposed.
One of the survivors is Shir Bitshvo, a resident of Rishon LeZion, who tells "MyNet" in an interview about the friend who saved her life: "Now he's half of my heart."
Shir Bitshvo (21) from the Narkissim neighborhood in Rishon LeZion didn't imagine the Nova music festival would turn into a nightmare. "I love good music, and go to a lot of nature parties but this time I decided it would be the last. I felt like I was partying and disconnecting from everything," recounts Bitshvo of the hours when she was still dancing in an open field surrounded by good friends.
"I went to the party with two girlfriends and one of their boyfriends. The party started at 11pm and it was an amazing night, I met a lot of friends, it was fun, good vibes and I was excited because it's an event I wanted to celebrate for a long time. They're very professional, there's security, everything organized and with permits, so there was a feeling of security," she says.
The Nova party near Re'im was planned to last until 4pm, but a little after 6 in the morning the revelers noticed signs of missiles in the sky.
"Because of the music we didn't hear the sirens, but when people started pointing to the sky they quickly lowered the noise. At first I tried to stay calm, but at some point I felt I was having an anxiety attack. I cried and friends came to calm me down. When my parents called I didn't answer because I knew they would immediately detect the panic in my voice, so I wrote to them that I was in a protected place even though I was in an open field, I didn't want them to worry. At that stage everyone thought it was just a drill and only missiles. We stayed in the area for almost half an hour waiting for the situation to calm down because we were afraid the sirens would catch us in the cars. We thought that was dangerous," she recounts.
The friend who saved her life
What she and her friends didn't know was that in that timeframe dozens of terrorists managed to cross the fence and get close to them.
"There were insane traffic jams at the exit," she remembers. "Suddenly we saw people jumping out of cars and shouting they were shooting at them. We hurried to turn the car to the other side but people who abandoned vehicles were also running towards us there, shouting to flee to the fields. By then we already heard gunshots. One of my girlfriends decided to stay by the car, despite my pleading with her to flee with me. The car seemed safer to her. I lost the other girlfriend and her boyfriend in the chaos. I started running alone and suddenly I saw a friend from Herzliya, Ofek Mizrachi (23). We had met at parties through mutual friends, but the hours we spent together that morning made him half my heart for life."
What do you remember from those moments?
"I held his hand and we fled. We ran like crazy. Gunshots from both sides, people falling all the time, some stumbling, some collapsing because they're simply exhausted. In the videos, you don't understand how long it lasted. We ran for almost three hours. Every time we ran in one direction, we heard gunshots and hurried in another direction. On the way I fell, got hurt. At some point I simply thought to stop and write a will message to my family, but Ofek didn't give up on me, he told me I would live at any price. No matter how many times I fell and tried to stop, he didn't leave me for a moment, lifted me up and made me keep running."
How did you manage to stay in touch during that time?
"There was very little phone reception. The police weren't available. My dad, Pini Bitshvo, already knew there was a shooting, I told him I was fleeing and told friends who called that I have to be careful because I don't know what will happen. Anyone who reached me told me to flee and send my mobile location. They also told me the Creator of the World (God) loves me and protects me. My faith really strengthened me."
Did you manage to locate your friends while running?
"No. Only later did I found out my girlfriends got home safely. During the run I saw many people who just minutes before we were dancing and laughing, and now fighting for their lives. A girl with a gunshot wound in her leg, a guy with a gunshot wound in his hand and full of blood, and also a guy who simply fell on his face into a hole and didn't get up. There were some who thought only about themselves and fled, there were those who stopped to help and paid with their lives. I constantly saw people falling, people who didn't survive the run or the shooting next to us. You run and have no idea if you're going in the right direction or running towards the terrorists, jumping like crazy from hole to hole in the ground."
At some point they reached orchards near the town of Patish. "There was a Tami 4 water cooler there, where everyone drank and washed their faces. Someone contacted the security forces who instructed us to wait for evacuation. We sat there in shock, people were traumatized. You're sure it's a bad movie and there's no way this is really happening to you. There was a police officer with us who himself didn't know what to do. We moved from greenhouse to greenhouse so they wouldn't catch us. There were hundreds of people. I remembered that during the run when I saw the terrorists. They wore military uniforms and held army weapons, apparently stolen equipment, it caused me to completely distrust everyone. Anyone who said he was speaking with police I told not to believe anyone, and to be careful not to give our location to anyone calling. I got to a state where I didn't trust anyone."
After about an hour the group evacuated in vans to the town of Patish, where local residents hosted them in their homes. "In the van I told everyone to keep Shabbat, that us being alive is a miracle, it happened by the grace of heaven. People who celebrated with us were kidnapped, murdered or collapsed on the way. A good friend of mine lost her life. I saw her in a video of the terrorists. Too many people I know appear in the abduction videos, on the missing persons lists and in the photos of bodies. People who during the night I said hi to and laughed with are now no longer with us."
Her phone battery died, but Ofek managed to contact her family. "He told my parents I was okay and explained to his father where we were. His father came to us with a car, crossed every checkpoint and didn't give up until he came to pick us up."
Are you exposed to the videos circulating on social media?
"Yes. I also filmed a lot because I wanted them to know where we were. Even though you see and hear the fear in the videos, it doesn't really convey the difficult feelings. The fear of losing your life is something no one will understand. That’s why I said that Ofek and I are connected for life, because only we know what we went through."