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Oct. 7 massacre reconstruction delivers a gut-wrenching blow



Yarin Ilovich, 28, was the DJ at the Nova Music Festival in the early morning hours of October 7 — just before Hamas launched its deadly attack on innocent Israelis.

He is the one who quite literally stopped the music at 6:29 am when a rocket attack sparked a “red alert” from security.

There’s footage of this haunting moment.

Those fateful seconds are part of the introductory video at “The Nova Music Festival Exhibition: October 7th 06:29am – The Moment Music Stood Still,” an exhibit at 35 Wall Street that recreates the ill-fated gathering of peace-loving music fans. More than 360 were killed, and 44 revelers were taken hostage.

Yaron Ilovich, 28 aka DJ Artifex survived the Nova Festival. He hopes visitors will feel the “kick in the gut to understand what happened there.” Emmy Park for NY Post

“It’s important; they will feel the kick in the gut to understand what happened there,” Ilovich told me.

But walking through that darkened, eerie 50,000 square foot space filled with tents, blankets, chairs, burned-out cars, and bullet-riddled porta-potties was more than a kick to the gut.

It hit every sense in the most visceral way and was especially rough with the tear ducts.

It was downright jarring.

“I hope people see this could have been Coachella or Governor’s Ball,” music mogul Scooter Braun told me. “Music is truly a universal language.”

Nova Music Festival Exhibition recreates the fateful festival where over 360 were murdered by Hamas and 44 taken hostage. Emmy Park for NY Post
The possessions the party-goers left behind as Hamas murdered and kidnapped are laid out in an exhibit which is at once a memorial and an expression of hope that some of the survivors can find what they lost. Emmy Park for NY Post

Braun, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, visited the exhibition when it was in Tel Aviv and knew he’d had to bring this stateside.

He was motivated by two things: to help the survivors — who inspired him with their tales of resilience — to tell their story. And then there was anger.

“These kids just wanted peace … I want to give them a voice and have the community see that this isn’t about politics,” said Braun.

“This isn’t about Israelis and Palestinians. This is about music,” he said, adding that he was “angry that an industry I had worked in for 20 years, no one was saying anything about the biggest music massacre in history.”

It was a stark contrast to the community outpouring after a suicide bomber killed 22 at a 2017 Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, or the Las Vegas massacre that occurred only months later.

Music mogul Scooter Braun visited Israel after the terrorist attack and wanted to bring this exhibition stateside to tell the stories of victims and survivors. Frank Micelotta/FX/Picturegroup/Shutterstock
Revelers fled for safety as Hamas attacked but hundreds did not survive and scores were kidnapped.

Braun recalls the response from music’s biggest names after the Manchester attacks: “Ariana’s bravery.” Chris Martin, Katie Perry, Robbie Williams, and Justin Bieber all showed up.

“It was absolutely horrible, and the entire world not only rallied but showed up two weeks later in Manchester to help us respond to terrorism,” he said.

“And the same ideology that the suicide bomber in Manchester believed in is the same ideology that the Hamas fighters believe in.”

And yet, crickets from his peers. He had to give the victims and survivors a bigger megaphone and platform. He immediately arranged to have it all brought to New York City, where exhibit creator, director, and writer Reut Feingold wanted to reconstruct the festival before Hamas shattered the peace.

A burned-out car recovered from the Nova Music Festival is displayed in the exhibition – just one of the many grim artifacts there. Emmy Park for NY Post
Shoes which were left behind were painstakingly gathered together for the exhibit. Emmy Park for NY Post

Those grim vignettes, frozen in time, are directly contrasted by the large screens playing videos from the phones of festival-goers and on others, footage of bloodthirsty Hamas terrorists mobilizing to maim, murder, and kidnap.

It was what the terrorists recorded — and what they wanted out there.

The power of this exhibit is in the minutiae.

In a make-up bag containing birth control and another holding a case of bronzer, the lid cracked.

In a guitar, a backgammon board, tables filled with the items recovered: shirts, shoes, cell phones.

A festival goer’s personal items are displayed on a blanket in front of a tent to show how it looked before Hamas terrorists shattered the peace. Emmy Park for NY Post

“On that day, random decisions meant the difference between life and death,” one sign reads.

And I felt that profoundly. Back in November I interviewed Gal Gilboa Dalal, who had been there with his younger brother Guy. The two split up into two different cars.

Gal escaped and his brother was kidnapped, their fates cruelly sealed by their respective car’s proximity to the exit.

In one darker corner of the exhibition, a conversation between 23-year-old Romi Gonen and her mother, Meirav, plays across a black screen.

The lost and found is piled high with shoes, shirts, bags, and other personal items left behind. Survivors and family members are still finding and claiming their things. Emmy Park for NY Post

Romi was kidnapped and taken hostage in Gaza. Throughout the call, Meirav repeatedly reminds her daughter that she is there with her. And everything will be okay.

A middle-aged blond woman in a cotton dress broke down crying in front of the screen. The tears were contagious.

And it is still operating as a lost and found: tables filled with personal items recovered at the scene.

More items, including hats and sunglasses in the lost and found. Emmy Park for NY Post

“They’ve had survivors come and actually find their belongings among the personal items laid out on tables,” Josh Kadden, a partner in the exhibition, told me.

One girl was sorting through the piles and found her Green Bay Packers sweatshirt.

Then there was hostage Moran Stella Yanai, who spent 44 days in Gaza before being released. She visited New York last week.

The festival porta-potties were riddled with bullet holes. They are just one of the many grim artifacts on display. Emmy Park for NY Post

“There’s a video of her finding her shoe here. It’s insane,” said Kadden.

In this way, the exhibition is still living and breathing. Still a service being rendered and a testament of hope that hostages will be freed and return to retrieve their belongings.

The exhibit is due to run through May 25, but Braun hopes to extend it and then take it to Los Angeles and other cities. (Tickets start at a $1 with options to donate to survivors).

As you emerge, bleary-eyed from the dark, the space takes on the energy of a yoga retreat.

One of the last rooms of the exhibition is dedicated to the more than 360 people murdered at the festival. People have left handwritten notes under their photos. Emmy Park for NY Post

There are bamboo chairs with cream cushions, jute ottomans, and a giant neon sign emphatically stating, “WE Will Dance Again.”

It’s an important transition — as Illovich, who somehow remains an optimist, notes.

“I want people coming here to see everything here is super authentic. You can’t fake it. You can’t deny what happened.”

The exhibition ends in the healing room, a sprawling light space with cards, art, and a neon sign that says, “we will dance again.” Emmy Park for NY Post

But his most important message:

“We are a tribe of light. And the light will always win.”

“The Nova Music Festival Exhibition: October 7th 06:29am — The Moment Music Stood Still,” is open Saturday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 pm, Fridays 11 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. at 35 Wall Street until May 25. Tickets are $1 with an option to donate more to mental health treatment for survivors and the bereaved.



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