Israel Reflections 2024–Day Three–The Nova Music Festival Site

In between the visits to the kibbutzes, we also visited the Nova Festival Site.  This is the only part of our visit south that is open to the public as most kibbutzes are trying to get back to normal or are uninhabited and locked for security reasons.  This was an incredibly difficult experience for everyone involved—the law students are the age of the festival goers and my colleague and I are parents of this age cohort too.

Annie Lelonek put this beautifully into words:

On October 7th, the internet was flooded with haunting images from the scene of Nova, the site of a music festival that took place in a community near the Gaza border. Before terrorists infiltrated the event, it was peaceful and beautiful. Young people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, came to Nova to dance the weekend away over the holiday of Sukkot. This tranquil site has now turned into a memorial to the more than 350 people who were brutally murdered by Hamas terrorists on that infamous day. The Nova site hit me with the full force. Nova put a face to the names. 

There now stands two sections at the site: one of a living memorial, trees planted at the site of the ashes, and another of remembrance to the victims created by their family and friends, with photos, expressions of adoration, and personal effects. It is hard to put to words how profoundly sad walking through the tributes was. The only thing that left me with a small sense of comfort was seeing how much these individuals were loved. That they will not die in vain. That they will never be forgotten.

And from student Moshe Gelberman:

Relatability should never be a metric of whom or how much to grieve. And yet, the relatability of the stories and lives displayed at the Nova Site caused their emotional impact to hit me more deeply, even amidst the other tragic experiences of the day. The Nova victims were not part of one geographical community, and their loss could not be made tangible to us through their absence from such a community. 

Instead, the shrines built at the Nova site served as the primary embodiment through which the loss of the victims were to be made tangible. And the tangible message was this: the victims were young and free, the victims loved dancing and listening to music, and they were killed during an event celebrating their happiest moments. When I saw what was written on the CD’s attached to the victims’ pictures  -;עור נשוב לרקוד (“We will dance again”) – the message was simple but powerful, and I was simply overwhelmed with grief.

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