October 7, 2023 was a doomsday* in Israel. To some that doomsday came with a gift of luck. That luck was bestowed upon Roi Assaraf and his wife Yonah who, on October 7, 2023 managed to escape from the Re’im Supernova* Music Festival, in southern Israel. They made it out alive and into the arms of their 2 young daughters.
*doomsday – a time or event of great crisis or danger
*The Supernova Sukkot gathering was a weekend-long outdoor trance music festival that began on 6 October 2023, produced by an organizer called Nova (also referred to as Tribe of Nova). It was the Israeli edition, a pre-festival event, of Universo Paralello, a psytrance festival that started 23 years prior in Bahia, Brazil.
On October 7th, 2023, at 06:30 AM, Hamas terrorists broke through the border fence between Gaza and Israel and launched a planned and coordinated attack, successful beyond all their expectations.
Unfortunately, the Supernova Music Festival turned sour. It became a wholesale massacre of the participants, perpetrated by the Hamas terrorists. Equipped with machine guns and handheld rockets they murdered in cold blood some 360 festival attendees, burned their cars and took some as hostages back to Gaza. When the terror spree ended, to sum it up Israel had just gone through a mini Holocaust.
A one-hour documentary chronicling the horrors perpetrated by Hamas during a music festival in southern Israel, has been acquired by broadcasters around the world.
Roi Assaraf is on a world tour to tell his survival story. On Wednesday, January 10, 2024, at the JEM Community Center, Beverly Hills, California, under the auspices of Rabbi Hertzel Illulian and Rivka and Rabbi Yisrael Seraff, a large crowd gathered to hear Roi’s story. It was a feel-good event where the audience met a survivor of the October 7th dreadfulness Israeli youths had gone through while dancing away for peace and love in the festival.
Here is Roi’s survival story and the realization he arrived at after his mind and soul caught up with his horrific experience.
Literally Saved by the Grace of God
The sequence of events only directs the reader to think that a super power guided Roi, Yonah and their friends to have been able to save themselves from the horrors that preceded their escape.
Roi, a hair stylist for the past 15 years, and married to Yonah, are parents to two daughters.
In the past few years Israel has gone through the COVID pandemic and political unrest, which coined the biblical term “sina’at hinam”*, meaning gratuitous hatred.
*Gratuitous hatred is a term that originates in Judaism, and it expresses non-objective hatred in which a person hates another person or a group without any objective reason, just due to the fact that he/she/they have a different view that is different from his/her own, or belonging to a different group.
For years, Roi’s passion was art. He has artistic tattoos all over his body and he described his life as an ongoing party.
Since the Supernova Festival was his friend’s production and other friends were involved, Roi, accompanied by his wife Yonah and two other friends, Netanel and Asher, decided to drive to the Festival venue early morning Saturday, October 7, 2023. They arrived at the Festival party at exactly 6:00 AM.
The Festival in fact began on Friday, October 6th. When Roi, wife and friends arrived at the lot there was no parking space. One of the security guards told Roi to park his car at the very end of the parking lot. He found a place between two parked cars. When his friend Netanel exited the car, he stepped on an empty milk carton. Since the parking lot was full of cars, Netanel mounted the milk carton on the car’s antenna in order for them to be able to spot the car fast. They laughed about the milk carton idea, and proceeded toward the party area. Roi texted his brother Idan who was already at the party to meet them at the bar area. They all met at the bar area when Yonah insisted she wanted to leave her jacket with Idan’s belongings.
Since Roi likes to stand behind the crowd and film, at 6:28 AM he took out his telephone and started to film the party. At a certain point, he saw two dark clouds on the camera screen. He zoomed in to see the dark clouds and saw that rockets from Gaza were fired towards Southern Israel. While the rockets were making their way to the Festival area, the blasting music was still going on.
Few seconds later, one of the Festival’s security guards got on the stage and announced “color red,” a term used in Israel to find cover against a rocket attack. He asked the party goers to evacuate because there was no protective space in the Festival area. He also instructed those who decided to stay to lie on the ground, face down, and hands covering their head.
Roi froze; all he felt as if something entered his body and he saw a flash picture of his two daughters. He turned to his wife and said to her, “we are not staying here. Keep an eye contact with me as we are running to our car.”
The scene was loud sirens, rockets fired and 4,000 people started exiting the Festival area.
At the exit Yonah remembered her jacket she left amongst Idan’s belongings. Though Roi told her it was unnecessary she insisted on picking it up. Her stubbornness was not causeless. As they went back to pick up the jacket the Festival’s emergency [evacuation] gates were opened. They were the frist to leave the Party area.
As Roi was running to their car in between the parked cars he saw a guy sleeping in his car. He insisted on waking the stranger up, alerting him to the “color red” situation. Five days later that stranger, a father to three, contacted Roi to thank him for saving his life.
As he was running to the car Roi took out his phone again and as he was filming, he told his wife that maybe that would be their last video together. Her reply, “do not say such nonsense God is with us.”
Roi told Yonah to call Netanel and Asher, the friends they took along, to meet them at the car. With all in the car Roi started to drive out of the Festival grounds with five cars ahead of him. As they reached the main road, the policemen standing there told them they cannot go to the right, only to the left because rockets were falling on the right direction road. Yonah started to pray the Jewish traditional prayer for the road. As she finished praying, all the five cars ahead of them simply made a U-turn back to the Festival grounds.
But Roi was hearing voices in his head telling him to continue driving on the road to the right and so he did; he continued driving.
After driving some half a kilometer Yonah saw through the car’s window two jeeps. She said, “Here are soldiers.” But Roi noticed their green ribbons wrapped around their heads, the green ribbons Hamas terrorists wear. At that moment Netael shouted, “Roi drive fast, these are terrorists.” Looking again through the car window, Roi noticed their guns pointing at them.
Some 20 terrorists were firing at them. Instinctively, Roi grabbed Yonah’s head and plunged it under the glove compartment while he lowered his head, not seeing the road ahead, and shouted the Jewish prayer, Shma Yisrael, meaning, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”*
*A Jewish prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). Also, it is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.
As Roi was steadily driving he saw in the rearview mirror the 2 jeeps full of terrorists veering toward the Festival grounds.
He told Yonah to contact his brother Idan who remained at the Festival grounds. Roi told Idan that terrorists just fired at them and he must escape the Festival grounds and also to caution the police that terrorists are heading towards them.
At that moment Idan could not find his car keys so he had no way to leave. Idan stayed at the Festival grounds for six long hours while the massacre was going on, but survived.
After driving some 1.5 kilometers, they passed near an IDF base. Netanel told Roi to drive into the base because an IDF base is a safe place to be. Again, an inner voice told Roi to keep on driving, not to stop. As it turned out, the terrorists who already murdered the soldiers in the base were waiting for a bait all dressed up in IDF fatigues.
The stress was overwhelming. Roi’s leg froze on the car’s gas pedal and Yohan had to help him pull it back.
They finally reached the city of Be’er Sheva, some 33 miles (43.3 km) from the Festival grounds. Having to fill the car with gas, Roi stopped at the gas station while a rocket fired from Gaza hit, with a loud explosion, and damaged a building nearby.
One hour later they reached the city of Jerusalem driving through sirens and rocket attacks.
While he was driving, Roi constantly prayed to hug his daughters. They entered their home panicking. When he approached the girls to hug them they looked at their father and got a fright; they felt his panic with his hug.
Loss Of Lives
Thirteen of Roi’s friends were murdered at the Festival. During the first 2 weeks since October 7, he attended five funerals. His soul could not bear it and he had to stop going to respect the dead. He could not eat nor sleep. He did not open his barbershop, in fact shut the business down.
Thanking The Grace of God, a Change of Life Habits
“When you realize that you survived death and life was gifted to you again, your outlook on life changes.” Roi shares the changes he has been making to his life.
The day following the Festival, when they realized that they were lucky enough to have made it out of the Festival inferno, Roi and Yonha have vouched that from here on they will be observing the Shabbat Day.
Shabbat, the 7th day of the week, is one of the holiest days in Judaism. It is a day in which God rested from creating the world. The Ten Commandments commands a Jew to take off that day and fully rest, just as God did.
The couple then sat down to write down all the miracles that happened to them that day, from the moment they entered the Festival grounds, through the lifesaving “adventures” that ended when they safely entered their home alive. They want their life-saving miraculous experience to be known across the world.
Now that Roi believes that the finger of a Godly power saved their lives, it is time to be grateful in deeds.
Though he always had that fear of leaving the party life and artistic tattoos as he was constantly chasing the next month, Roi never achieved full satisfaction from anything. As Roi and Yonah are now getting closer to practicing traditional Judaism they realize getting closer to real satisfaction in life.
After fully observing the first Shabbat, Roi experienced first time fulfillment and closure, a sense he never achieved in his previous life when he was always chasing the unknown.
In Roi’s opinion, the Nation of Israel needs to be thankful the Supernova Festival ended the way it did. Because he believes that God wanted the people in Israel to open their eyes. Some 3000 Hamas terrorists entered Israel and for several hours they murdered people whom they came across but only 1400 people were murdered. That means that God has mercy on the Jewish people. Reason, if one does a small calculation and each terrorist murdered 10 people, the outcome would have been 30,000 murdered Israelis.
Roi believes that God opened the Nation of Israel’s eyes. There is no need for horrific tragedy to occur in order to see the nation united and strong as it is now.
It was important for Roi and Yonah to tell their story, but other friends who survived have their own survival story to tell as well.
They all have decided to write a book, each telling his or her story. Roi collected 80 stories that will be combined into a book to be published in Hebrew and English.
When crimes against Jews are perpetrated, the world conveniently tends to forget them. Roi decided that his personal October 7, 2023 miraculous survival story must be put on record for eternity. He is therefore raising funds to tell his story in the book “The 7th of October, My Personal Miracle.”
The stories in the upcoming book aim to strengthen the reader’s mind and soul.
As for Roi, his survival, his new connection to God gives him the inner strength he always searched for but never knew he possessed. And that strength he shares with many people as he travels the world to tell his miracle of survival story.