Nadav Morag went to the Nova festival in Israel with his friend Yoni to “smile together, meet new people and dance”.
But what was meant to be a celebration of life turned into massacre.
The 28-year-old from the city of Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, told the JC: “What started as a peaceful music festival with beautiful people ended as a horror movie.”
Morag recalled making his way to the main stage of the festival at about 6am to dance, but as he and Yoni admired the sunrise, they noticed rockets starting to appear.
“The music stopped and the security forces told us to stay on the ground and then to evacuate the area.
“Suddenly something felt incredibly wrong. We were too close to Gaza. I told Yoni, 'We need to get the f*** out of here, now.'
“We packed our stuff, got in the car and turned left on to the main road,” Morag said.
He recalled seeing other cars making U-turns and their passengers calling to them to flee in the other direction. They followed this instruction – a decision that turned out to be crucial.
“I didn’t understand what was happening, but I was doing my best to stay safe,” he said.
By 7.20am the pair were in a line of vehicles trying to flee when they passed a stationary red car with a severely injured woman inside. A field medic was treating her and the friends stopped to see if they could help.
“Her leg was cut off, me and Yoni rushed over but there were too many people next to her.
“We started to hear rifle shots, and then the stress started.”
Morag and Yoni ran back to their car to get water bottles for the injured woman.
They then focused again on getting away. At this point they decided their best bet was to abandon their car and try to flee on foot: “We had no idea what was going on, we were trying to find a safe space, but then we heard more rifle shots from the other side.”
Morag described a scene of chaos with people not knowing which direction to run and hide: “People were hiding in bushes,“ he said.
“We followed the path led by two security guys. I was just focused on getting away.”
“At 8.30 we could still hear the bullets whistling near us. We hugged the ground, waiting for a break and just ran as fast as we could to the next trees.
“In the background we could hear the interceptions of Iron Dome [Israel's air defence system]. Some rockets fell in our area but we kept going.”
By 9.30, the gunfire was far away enough for it to no longer be audible - all that they could hear then was the sound of rockets being intercepted.
“We kept walking for two more hours with no water or food, looking for fruits in the groves on the way.
“We didn’t know how long it would take we just kept heading east, away from Gaza.”
By 11.30am they reached an evacuation point with police and civilians waiting for them.
“The people there gave us water, food, shelter. A few hours later a volunteer bus driver drove us to [the city of] Beer Sheva with a police escort.”
He said: “The roads looked like an apocalypse. We saw a speeding terrorist’s car getting fired at.”
From Beer Sheva, a bus drove them, and others, to Tel Aviv where Morag's girlfriend was waiting for him.
“When I think about what happened now and the amount of people who lost their lives, I see I was a lucky one. I was one of the first 300 or so people to make an escape.
“All I can think about is the people who lost their lives. When we first got to safety I remember joking we with my friend I didn’t really have a good idea of what had happened yet.
“As news started to come to us that hundreds of people had been killed, it started to hit me how different things could have been for me.”
Nadav Morag (Photo: Nadav Morag/The Jewish Chronicle)
Morag said he was bolstered by the support Israel had been receiving from around the world.
“It is the first time that the world is starting to see us and what we are dealing with from Hamas. The support we are getting is part of an awakening, people are understanding what is happening.
“I hope Hamas see this. I hope it sees we are important and matter to people. The way the world wants to protect us it makes me feel optimistic.”