‘I Was Saved by a Miracle.’ A Survivor Recounts the Horror of the Hamas Attack on Israel’s Supernova Festival

Arbel Ashkenazy attended the Supernova festival on Friday night, a desert rave that coincided with the start of the week-long Jewish holiday of Sockswhich celebrates the fall harvest and commemorates the Old Testament story of the Jewish people wandering in the desert for 40 years after escaping slavery in Egypt. The festival featured Brazilian psy trance music and focused on free love, spirit, and environmental preservation.

But in the early hours of Saturday morning, Hamas militants paraglided into the outdoor festival and began shooting indiscriminately at partygoers. At the same time, Hamas also launched thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel and sent fighters to other border towns in the south of the country. Hamas says that they have taken over 100 Israeli hostages so far. Over 700 hundred Israelis were killed, with the death toll soaring over 1,200 on both sides on Monday.

The Supernova festival had one of the highest concentrations of casualties. More than 260 bodies have been found from the festival so far.

Below is Arbel’s account of the events that unfolded at the festival.

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We arrived at the party Friday night, and at around 6 in the morning on Saturday they stopped the music and sirens started to sound. We heard the sound of rockets over our heads in huge numbers. During this time we weren’t that stressed, we just stayed put at the party and lied down on the floor. Slowly, slowly we started to see many people leave and head to their cars despite the fact that we were supposed to stay.

During this time, I started looking for my friend Eden. Even though we didn’t arrive at the party together, she is my best friend so I immediately started to look for her. Me and my friend found her and we left and started heading for the direction of the cars at around 7 a.m. At this point, we were getting more stressed but we still didn’t totally understand exactly what was happening. There also wasn’t any reporting on it in the news or internet yet.

We started to leave the party and get into vehicles, but because everyone was leaving at the same time—there were 3,000 people at the party—there was a crazy amount of traffic in the street. We ended up making a left turn and we immediately saw all these cars with shattered windows from the gunshots. We heard a lot of people screaming that they needed an ambulance. We didn’t know what to do so we stayed in our vehicles.

By that time, I had lost contact with my friend Eden, because she was in a different car and hid there when the gunshots started. Then, we heard somebody screaming, “get out of the cars,” so we left the cars, and just started running. There was an area with an empty field since it was a nature party. It was very bare with no trees or anything and we started to run toward it. At that same time, we also started to hear gunshots from every direction and voices shouting Allahu Akbar. While we were running in that open field, we could see in the distance some of the Hamas people. They were wearing all black with black masks and had these huge guns.

For some time, we hid in these bushes before we started to run further east. But as we started running east, we saw other people from the party running toward us and they told us, run to the other side because there are terrorists on this side. They had just circled all around us from every direction. We kept running when suddenly I saw a person—an angel—that had a big white van. He picked up a bunch of people into the van and me and my friend climbed onto the van.

It was a miracle that even though he was driving in this open field, and there were gunshots all over the place, we were able to get to a police station in the city of Netivot at around 10:30 a.m. We stayed there until the evening until things calmed down, if you can even say “calmed down,” because it didn’t really calm down. In our area, they captured some of the perpetrators.

I heard that my friend Eden, who had hidden in the car during the gunshots, was on the phone the entire time with her mother for four hours straight. At some point she made it to the bushes as well, but then suddenly, four hours into the phone call, they heard her say on the phone, “they caught me.” You can hear for a moment in the recording the voices of the Hamas people and then the phone disconnects. We have been looking for her but have not heard from her since.

The hardest part is to see all the bodies of young kids our age with blood laid out on the floor. We were in an environment of pure chaos. I was saved by a miracle and was left in peace, but many of my friends including my best friend Eden are still there and I just want everyone to return safely and in peace. I just want this horrible story to end because it doesn’t feel real. It’s not normal, in any country, any place, nobody should have to go through something like this. It didn’t make any sense. We ran like crazy people in the middle of an open field while they were shooting at us, there was no place to run, no place to hide. I’m grateful to be alive but I just want Eden back.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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