By Hilary Faverman
Nurit Shalom received a text from her son Ram in the early hours of October 7th. A simple, eerie message reading only “Ima”.
Nurit’s son, Ram, days away from his 25th birthday and just about to embark on a career as a business owner, was at the Nova party on October 7th. Sent amidst chaos, Ram’s message proved to be among his last communications with his mother.
The night of the massacre, Ram and 10 of his childhood friends, a tight-knit group since birth and all only a year or two post-army, journeyed together to the festival.
Ram’s “Ima” message at 8:08 am was a brief reassurance; a son attempting to calm his mother in a moment of pandemonium, as he was certain she would wake up that morning and panic. An hour later, when Nurit finally reached Ram via phone, he assured her that he and his friends were safe and on their way home. An involuntary, truncated sigh of relief escaped her, and then she heard shots behind his voice. Nurit and the mother of one of the other young men with her son – Ram’s best friend – clung to each other in desperation, trying to reach their sons, shouting into the phone, only to be met with silence.
Nurit texted Ram. And again. By 10:45, the texts claimed no blue checks.
Later that day, the army called.
Witness accounts later revealed the extent of Ram’s bravery that morning. Assaulted on foot, he had attempted to disarm a terrorist, a courageous act that Nurit confirmed defined his character. Ram, a former member of the Tzanchanim, the Israeli Paratroopers Brigade, demonstrated his instinct to protect and fight, even to his own peril.
As Nurit recounted her story, her grief hung heavy in the air, cloaking everyone present. She spoke of Ram as her oxygen, a “smiler” who loved life itself. Told in spurts and whispers this past Sunday at the KKL-JNF TuBshvat event, Nurit’s story is representative of over 300 sets of parents nationwide who are on a journey through collective grief and remembrance, supported by resilient efforts to plant new hope amid sorrow.
Over 100 Days Since the Massacre
It’s been over 100 days since the tragedy. We at KKL-JNF held an extensive tree-planting Tu B’shvat event at the site of the Nova festival in the Reim Picnic Area of Beeri Forest. We invited the families of the 364 partygoers who perished in the massacre, as well as the Nova survivors and their families.
Prior to the tragedy, this site, which is part of the Beeri forest, was a haven of inclusivity, a place free and open to those from all over Israel, brimming with life through its bike trails and protected natural spaces for leisure and enjoyment. This soulful event not only recognized lost lives; it positioned all of us, as Israelis, to reclaim this site of profound sorrow as one of hope and renewal. Yifat Ovadia-Losky, KKL-JNF’s Chairwoman, poignantly stated, “In the place where they were slaughtered, new life will be planted. Planting trees symbolizes resilience and a steadfast commitment to life, even in the darkest of times. It is an embodiment of the community’s determination to remember, heal, and rebuild, transforming a space marked by tragedy into one of growth and renewal.”
As families gathered to commemorate the lives and worlds extinguished at the Nova massacre, emotions hung heavily among the crowd, cultivating a thick, palpable layer of grief. The event, devoid of speeches or stages, was a somber reflection of the tragedy. The near-silence was only broken by semi-distant booms from Gaza, a stark, puncturing reminder of the ongoing war. Family after family, some wearing matching apparel featuring images of their lost loved ones, as if members of haunted teams, lumbered slowly through the fields. Many young people stood solitarily while stunted, smeared tears streamed down their pinched faces. The scene was a tapestry of hope surpassing grief, each family crossing the field and planting a tree to symbolize new life amidst the surreal backdrop of red flowers superseding death.
We are In, Part Of, and With the South: KKL-JNF’s Initiatives in the Last 100+ Days
In the aftermath of the Nova massacre, we at KKL-JNF have been deeply committed to the affected communities, catering to their needs and supporting first their survival, and next, their resilience. Our CEO, Yuval Yenni, elaborates on our response to the tragedy; “We recognized immediately the urgent need for support. We allocated 1 million NIS to each local council in the Gaza Envelope for emergency supplies. Additionally, understanding the critical security needs of the 48 communities within 7 km of the border, we provided each with 200,000 NIS for essential defense materials, all within one week of the attack.”
KKL-JNF’s involvement extended beyond financial aid to include immediate, hands-on support. Yenni continues, “We took an active role in relocating over 30,000 citizens from the South. We facilitated accommodation both in our facilities and in hotels across Israel, investing 20 million NIS initially to ensure their safety. This comprehensive approach underlines our commitment not just to immediate relief but also to the long-term wellbeing and resilience of Southern communities.”
The KKL-JNF commitment goes beyond immediate relief; it’s about nurturing resilience and holistically rebuilding communities that have faced unimaginable loss. Now, moving past the initial phase, we are actively planning for the future, focusing on helping communities rebuild. This is a joint endeavor with the Israeli government, reinforced by a strategic five-year contract with the Finance Ministry, through which we have already transferred 2 billion NIS for various rebuilding projects. In partnership with Minhelet Tkuma, we are committed to fostering resilience, both physical and mental, in these communities. Our efforts are ongoing and collaborative, with a focus on healing. Yenni adds, “Through these actions, we demonstrate our profound commitment to fostering long-term healing and growth. We stand united and resolute in the face of adversity, dedicated to transforming this tragedy into a testament of hope and rejuvenation.”
A Message of Resilience and Future
The KKL-JNF Tu B’shvat event stood as a profound testament to the indomitable strength of the Israeli spirit. Even in our darkest hours, we retain a capacity for growth and renewal.
In remembering those we lost, and in the enduring spirit of the community, we recognize not just the tragedy of the Nova massacre but also the relentless power of hope and revitalization. Noa Tal, Director of our Planning Division, encapsulates this sentiment perfectly: “In the face of such profound loss, we at KKL-JNF are committed to creating spaces that honor life and foster hope. Each tree planted, each initiative undertaken, is a step toward healing. It’s our tribute to the lives lost and our pledge to build a resilient future. As we care for these new saplings, we nurture the promise of a better tomorrow.”
We extend an invitation to our readers to join this journey of healing, to be an integral part of a collective effort that transforms grief into strength and sow new roots for a hopeful future.