'I never stopped loving life'

Nova party escapees reunite with Holocaust survivor who sheltered them

Three women who lived through the Nazi genocide offer advice and inspiration to partygoers who escaped deadliest massacre of October 7, urging them to focus on future

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Sara Jackson hugs a survivor of the Nova party in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2024. (Nova Tribe Foundation)
Sara Jackson hugs a survivor of the Nova party in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2024. (Nova Tribe Foundation)

As the horrors of October 7 unfolded in southern Israel, the five young people who sought shelter from rampaging terrorists at the home of Sara Jackson in Kibbutz Sa’ad lacked the emotional bandwidth to listen to her Holocaust survival story and takeaways from her many near-death experiences.

Escapees from the Supernova rave party in Re’im where Hamas terrorists killed more than 300 revelers, the traumatized visitors informed Jackson of the onslaught, armed themselves with the biggest knives they could find in her kitchen, and holed up with her for hours in her bomb shelter as the kibbutz’s defenders held the murderous invaders at bay.

“They were terribly distraught. At a certain point, I tried to tell them my story, how I had survived, but they didn’t listen and I let them be,” Jackson, an 88-year-old mother of seven who survived the Holocaust in hiding in her native Poland, told the Ynet news outlets in a recent article (Hebrew).

Jackson and the five survivors from Supernova — also referred to as the Nova festival — reunited last week during an encounter between several Nova escapees and three women who survived the Holocaust.

The encounter, held on May 2 at a park in Tel Aviv under the auspices of the Zikaron BaSalon Holocaust commemoration initiative, was an opportunity for the party survivors to draw on the experience of the three women in processing trauma.

It was also a symbolic moment that encapsulated the Jewish People’s capacity for surmounting tragedy.

Sara Jackson, right, and Lala Levy meet in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2024. (Nova Tribe Foundation)

“After all that I have been through, I never stopped loving life. And that was my proposition to them: Love life. Don’t get stuck back at the Nova party,” Jackson told Ynet.

Also present at the encounter was Hannah Gofrit, 89, from Tel Aviv. She was born in Poland and survived the genocide in hiding with her mother. Her father disappeared during the war and the family was never able to discover what happened to him, or where he is buried.

Nova survivors will find the strength to move on from the trauma and build productive and fulfilling lives just as hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors have, she predicted.

Hannah Gofrit speaks to escapees from the Nova party in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2024. (Nova Tribe Foundation)

“I think it’s in our people’s DNA: At the most difficult moment, the spark of hope in life shines through, and you have that spark, too,” she told the escapees.

Another Holocaust survivor, Deborah Weinstein of Herzliya, told the news site that she came to speak to the Nova survivors “not to cry about how terrible and awful the Nova massacre was, but to look forward, toward revival in the future.”

Weinstein, whose sister died of exhaustion while the two girls and their mother were fleeing the Nazis across their native Ukraine, focused on the Nova survivors who did not speak during the encounter.

“All those still suffering trauma, who sat in the circle without talking about what they’d experienced, I told them to start talking about it. To set up a memorial monument so that everyone born in this country will know about this, and that never again will it recur,” she told Ynet.

Deborah Weinstein, center, and fellow Holocaust survivors meet escapees of the Nova party in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2024. (Nova Tribe Foundation)

Lala Levy, one of the five people who took shelter at Jackson’s home, called the Holocaust survivors’ stories inspirational. “Sara is living testimony that it is possible to move forward and choose life,” Levy said at the discussion with the Holocaust survivors.

Despite Jackson’s impression that her house guests were too distraught to listen to her, Levy, at least, did register what Jackson was trying to relay and appreciated the Holocaust survivor’s effort to take the five visitors’ mind off their fear.

“When we were in the sheltered area, she tried to keep us busy,” Levy, 27, said in a video produced by the Nova Tribe Foundation for survivors of the party. “She had a big picture of her whole family in the sheltered area so she told us she was a Holocaust survivor and she escaped. And I’m like realizing that we escaped into the home of a Holocaust survivor. I mean, wow.”

Lala Levy speaks to Holocaust survivors in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2024. (Nova Tribe Foundation)

Channel 12 aired some of the footage, in which Levy and Jackson appeared to share a special connection.

Aired on a national channel at a time of social division and polarization, their mutual affection seemed to transcend the radical age and lifestyle differences between the partygoer, sporting a nose ring, blue hair and multiple tattoos, and the short-haired great-grandmother, who was on her way to pray at the synagogue of her religious kibbutz when the escapees asked her to shelter them.

Weinstein, the survivor who was born in what later became Ukraine, called October 7 a “Holocaust,” adding she never imagined it could happen in Israel. When she saw images in the media of Israeli houses burning, “I saw myself as a five-year-old child, standing next to the burning house unable to do anything,” she said in her talk with the Nova survivors.

Hannah Gofrit is hugged by a survivor of the Nova party in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2024. (Nova Tribe Foundation)

The events of October 7, when about 3,000 Hamas terrorists invaded Israel from the Gaza Strip and killed some 1,200 people and abducted another 252, were the deadliest single attack on Jews since the Holocaust. The onslaught, which shook the confidence of many in Israel’s viability, loomed large in the leadup and during Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year fell on May 6.

The Nova festival bloodbath was by far the deadliest of the dozens of massacres perpetrated on October 7, and was the scene of many atrocities and sexual assaults.

Family members visit the site of the Supernova music festival massacre, six month after the October 7 Hamas terror assault, in Re’im forest, near the Gaza border, April 7, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Michal Lipman, co-CEO of Zikaran BaSalon, referenced both the trauma of the Nova festival and Holocaust survivors’ relevance to healing it.

“Over the past six months, Holocaust survivors gave strength to many of us,” Lipman said of Nova survivors in a statement about the encounter, which her group had co-produced along with the Tribe of Nova Foundation for survivors.

Those who survived the Holocaust, she added, “are inspiring proof that one can rise even from the lowest of depths.”

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