'Our life has become hell,' says mother of Israeli 21-year-old missing after desert festival

Shelly Shem Tov said she lost contact with her son Omer on Saturday afternoon


The mother of a young Israeli man who was at the Supernova festival in south Israel has told the JC that her life has become "hell" since last Saturday's massacre.

Shelly Shem Tov, who lives in Herzliya in central Israel, told the JC she thought it was "a mistake" when she saw a mobile phone tracker showing her son being taken towards Gaza on Saturday morning.

Omer Shem Tov, 21, is the youngest of Shelly’s three children - his mother described him as “the sunshine in the house” - and was working as a part-time waiter, saving money to travel the world. He had been planning to travel to Amsterdam next week for another festival.

Last Friday night, the family was in Jerusalem to celebrate Shelly’s birthday, before Omer left to go to the festival with friends.

“He hugged me and kissed me, then he left with his friends to have fun” Shelly said.

It was the last time she saw her son. The following morning, the family were woken to rocket sirens, an experience that is not uncommon in Israel. Shelly then contacted her son to check on him, and he confirmed that he had heard rockets in the desert at the festival as well.

In his last phone call to his mother, Omer told Shelly that he had been able to get into a car and escape, but then “the phone stopped”. Omer's sister had asked him to keep his live location on, tracking him as he headed home. Shelly and her family watched on helplessly as the car headed toward the Gaza border.

“We thought it’s not real…it’s a mistake,” Shelly said.

Immediately, her husband started searching nearby hospitals to see if her son had arrived there, while she phoned Omer’s friends in hopes of learning new information.

On Saturday at 8pm, Shelly was sent a video from a friend of Omer’s showing handcuffed in a pickup truck on the floor next to his friends. He was alive.

“That was the time I realised my life became like hell,” Shelly said.

Since then, she has struggled to sleep, while in the morning she does not want to open her eyes.

Now, she said, all she can do is “shout my pain".

It is, she added, "not only my pain, it is the pain of all the mothers in Israel”.

“People told me it’s like a movie…but for me it’s my life now”.

In an attempt to try to retain a sense of normality, Shelly has avoided watching the news, choosing instead to stay close to friends and loved ones offering their support.

When friends have asked her what they can do to help, Shelly says that she only has two requests: “Pray for Omer and come to hug my family”.

Asked what message she would give to other families in the same situation, she said they need to “be strong with hope that their loved ones will come back home”.

“She added: "I believe in God, I believe in humanity, I believe they will come back safe and I hope it will be soon."

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