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Restoring Israel Nova survivors, bringing them out of darkness

  • Festival survivors find Nova support
  • Dr. Lia Naor initiates compassionate haven
  • Therapeutic activities aid Nova healing

The sign displays a pristine white background with light blue lettering that reads, “You may shed tears here.”

Beyond it, plush, comfortable sofas are enclosed from the rest of the room by a screen. It is a secure, private area where survivors of the Nova music festival in Israel can connect with others who experienced the same ordeal on October 7 and receive the urgently needed mental health support that many of them require.

Earlier that morning, Hamas assailants stormed the festival site near the Israel-Gaza perimeter fence, resulting in the deaths of over 360 young partygoers through shooting, beating, or burning. Forty more were taken as hostages.

Initially, social media posts depicted terrified crowds fleeing gunmen on the ground and rockets launched from Gaza. As time passed, distressing first responder videos emerged, documenting the magnitude of the carnage through the capture of countless murdered partygoers.

Dr. Lia Naor’s Compassionate Initiative

In the days that followed, Dr. Lia Naor realized that, in contrast to those evacuated from nearby kibbutzim, the festival attendees who endured the ordeal lacked an immediate support system.

Consequently, she established one.

“All I wanted was to hold them,” explains Dr. Naor.

“They were extremely frozen and fragmented.” Then there was the betrayal of faith they had experienced; no one, not their parents, the military, or the authorities, had been there for them. There was no one present to rescue them. Creating a secure and stimulating environment for them was, therefore, the initial objective.

Rebuilding Lives Through Therapeutic Activities

North of Tel Aviv, in Rishpon, the outdoor environment is tranquil and sheltered. In Israel, early December days have been pleasant, and individuals are lounging on vibrant beanbags strewn across the grass. A schedule displaying the variety of seminars that day, from sound baths to mosaic making, is displayed on a prop. Singing sessions, massage, and group music are available.

A few calm dogs wander among the participants, seeking attention or begging for sustenance. One tiny crossbreed Chihuahua with black fur possesses silver wings that elicit coos of admiration. The present circumstances differ significantly from those of the past.

Lia recalls how, despite their intact bodies, it was evident that they were shattered, as their eyes were hollow. They appeared lifeless.

Their gaze was diverted away from us. They would experience tremors and be incapable of ingesting sustenance or liquids. The evil discovered by these individuals is mysterious.

“I told them early on, ‘No matter how dark the darkness you observed, we shall bring light.'” “We will assist you in regaining faith in yourself and in others.”

Although a tremendous collaborative effort, this location was not initiated by the government.

Everyone in this room is a volunteer who is donating their time to help others. The edible arrangements arranged on low tables are contributions from charitable organizations and commercial enterprises.

Following one of Israel’s most somber periods, everyone desires to contribute in some way.

Lior Gelbaum is a survivor of Nova. She tells me that the tiny gems she has placed beneath each eye whi, which sparkle in the light, have restored her sense of joy. A 24-year-old individual from Petah Tikva consistently visits this location in search of assistance and to distribute handcrafted silver necklaces to those in attendance on any given day.

She vividly recollects the event.

She informs me that we began to hear rockets soaring above our heads at 6:30 in the morning. “As expected, we arose and prepared to depart in our vehicle; however, our approach was impeded by traffic congestion. We immediately exited the building upon hearing gunfire above us and began to run in the direction of the open field. We had no idea what was occurring or where we were going; all we could hear were automatic gunshots. Having a large vehicle, Yehuda and Galit were the individuals who escorted us away. “They saved us.”

Additionally, Lior discusses the significance of music in her recovery.
“All those in attendance at the Nova festival shared a passion for dancing and spending time together. It was crucial that, following the tragedy, the community reunite and support one another; it was vital that we be in each other’s company, converse, and express our emotions.

However, she claims that it has been difficult for her to appreciate something so fundamental to her identity.

Lia states that it has been difficult for her to listen to music since the Nova festival, and she continues to feel most at ease, only at concerts featuring the artists who perform at this location.

Beyond the seating area, a modest incline ascends a vast garden. It is enclosed by trees bearing citrus fruits and row upon row of untamed herbs, with the air being fragrant with rosemary and sage.

It is not uncommon for the survivors to traverse it while gathering foliage to use in herbal teas. Nature comprises a significant portion of this location. Due to the tremendous demand for space, new rustic shelters are being constructed to accommodate the hundreds of individuals who are currently arriving.

Professional clinical psychologists interact daily with the arriving survivors. They are available for minimal or extensive conversation, depending on the situation.

Physician Itamar Cohen is among them. He arrived from London via air as quickly as possible following October 7.

I inquire as to what tales he has been told. Deep breathing ensues before he responds.

“People in this vicinity have witnessed an immense quantity of suffering. Certain individuals were perilously near to departing from this location. Some were pursued and were forced to flee for their lives. It was difficult to comprehend that while fleeing from a carnage. Moreover, they are still required to operate and persist in their efforts at this time.”

Additionally, there is another component.

“A great number of individuals are bereaved; at one point, they lost tens of thousands of friends.” There is also remorse. “Why did I manage to survive instead of my friend?” More survivors should have been loaded into my vehicle so I could have driven them to safety. Numerous thoughts revolved around the notion that “I may not be deserving of salvation; I could have performed better.”

According to Dr. Cohen, being in the company of other therapists during a time of darkness is beneficial for all of them.

“We are allotted time to reflect collectively, analyze, and discuss the obstacles we face, our susceptibilities, fears, and feelings of culpability.” It signifies that we have a safe space to work through that and strengthen one another; it also immensely assists me.”

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