Three months on, Nova Festival victims’ families return to remember them

Relatives of the 40 young hostages kidnapped from the festival are in limbo as they keep their memory alive


Israeli soldiers walk among the pictures of people taken captive or killed by Hamas militants duing the Supernova music festival on October 7, at the site where the deadly incident took place near Kibbutz Reim in southern Israel, on December 1, 2023. (Photo by Jack GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Gal Gilboa-Dalal, a Nova survivor, stands next to a giant poster of his missing brother Guy, 22. “He was kidnapped from the happiest place you can imagine to the darkest space,” he tells the JC.

The poster features a screenshot of a frightened young man bound and shaking in what appears to be a Hamas tunnel in Gaza.

“When Hamas stormed the festival I was in hiding for eight hours,” says Gal. “I told Guy on the phone to hide but shortly after they had abducted him, murdered his friends and released the video of him in Gaza two and a half hours before I was rescued. I found out from my friends, people already knew he was a hostage before I was safe.”

Gal only went to keep an eye on his younger brother before everything turned into a nightmare. “I wasn’t supposed to go, but I went because I wanted to watch out for him. It was his first festival…” He breaks off.

Hamas terrorists murdered 364 people at the festival and kidnapped 40 more on October 7. It has been three months of hell for the families.

While the survivors of the festival are struggling, with reports of some in psychiatric units and others taking their own lives, Gal says he can’t think of healing until his family gets his brother back.

“Some friends are struggling, some survivors feel they have been reborn, others are in a very bad place. What keeps me going is feeling my brother is alive, but it’s been three months.”

It’s winter at the Re’im festival site and the ground is still “stained with blood” say the victims’ families. Bullet casings litter the picturesque nature reserve.

Three months ago peace-loving young people were running for their lives here. Families placed candles, flags, photographs and personal belongings in memory of their loved ones, against the backdrop of the charred remains of the campsite. Photographs on large metal posts of each of the 364 victims were erected in their memory to the sound of trance music, to symbolise the event that Nova was supposed to be.

“Why are we still here? How come they’re not back yet?” says Yarden, whose sister Romi Gonen 23, was shot as she was taken, and cruelly was not on the list of women and children released in November.

“Sorrow, hope, stress, nausea, more uncertainty. More hope, more stress,” she says.

“Every time I try to eat something I feel ashamed because I don't know what or when she ate last.

“Every second counts. Every time I go to the bathroom or the shower I get nauseated by the thought because there someone is watching her changing her clothes, getting undressed.

“As a woman I know the feeling of insecurity by going on the street alone at night. The crushing and paralysing fear from the man that’s walking behind me that may decide to attack and sexually abuse me where no one can see or hear it. For 91 days my little sister and another 135 women and men are living this fear every second.”

After the Egyptian and Qatari ceasefire negotiations broke down, families of hostages warn that every day they remain in Gaza is a danger to their lives.

And for those left behind, life stopped on October 7.

“I won’t give up on my brother, I owe it to him,” says Gal.

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