A Nova festival survivor tells her story


Oct. 7, 2023 seemed like just another day in Israel for Daniel Dvir, an Israeli citizen who had recently moved to Tel Aviv. While attending the now-infamous Nova music festival near kibbutz Re’im, Dvir’s life, and the lives of millions throughout the world, were flipped upside down by the surprise attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Dvir was invited to speak at the Chabad of Sea Cliff – Glen Cove on Tuesday to share her experiences and the terror she lived through on that fateful day last year. The Chabad’s rabbi, Sholom Heber, impressed on attendees the importance of hearing from Dvir and other survivors of that fateful day, comparing it to hearing the testimony of Holocaust victims.

“We read our history books and understood what (the Holocaust) was, but we didn’t think much of it,” Heber said. “I think Oct. 7 reminds us, it’s not history.”

Dvir walked attendees through her week leading up to the attack, describing how she had recently moved to Tel Aviv for work, and had celebrated the holiday Sukkot with her family in the north. She emphasized how normal the days leading up to Oct. 7 were; how she was working, hanging out with friends, and preparing for a festival they were excited to attend.

Dvir, who had completed her mandatory military service in 2022, emphasized that in the days leading up to the Nova festival, neither she nor her friends knew where the event would be held, which she said was typical for this type of music festival. Even when they found out the event would be held only a few miles away from the border with Gaza, none of them were concerned.

“When I knew (the location) I wasn’t worried or anything because it was so huge. Like 3,000 people or more came to the festival,” Dvir continued. “I’ve lived in Israel my whole life, so it was not something I was really worried about.”

That all changed in the early morning of Oct. 7, while Dvir, her friends and the other festivalgoers were still partying. She described seeing “thousands of rockets above our heads” when the music suddenly turned off and a police officer came and told them the concert was cancelled and that they needed to get to safety.

Dvir then talked through the fear and panic that rippled through the gathered partygoers. While some people stayed and waited for the military to arrive, she and a friend grabbed their things and ran to the car, frantically trying to figure out what to do.

“I was calling my parents, filling them in on the situation,” Dvir said. “I don’t want to spend more time here, under the rockets. So I think I better go back home and drive fast and go away from here, so that’s what I decided to do.”

But the traffic from others trying to leave the festival made leaving an impossibility. That’s when she said she saw a man running towards her screaming, “Terrorists!” Dvir got out of her car and began to run.

She spent the next hours running for her life, looking for a safe place. Eventually she and roughly 100 other festivalgoers were informed by a police officer that Hamas had broken through the Israeli blockade, and that they needed to hide until Israeli security forces arrived.

Dvir hid on a farm for part of the following day with the other festivalgoers. She described their struggle to find food and water and their constant fear of being captured by Hamas. Dvir’s father tried to find her.

“My mom texted me at 9:30 a.m. that my dad had gone south,” Dvir said. “He drove all the way to me, like Liam Neeson in ‘Taken.’”

Her father picked her and four of her friends up and managed to drive them home. Dvir said they were “really lucky for not being shot at when we were driving.”

After her presentation, she spoke with the attendees, answering questions and talking about the ongoing issues of antisemitism in America and the changing dialogue around Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Dvir emphasized the importance of the ongoing conflict not just in the Middle East, but around the world.