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'My sister's body was lying in the forest for five days'

October 16, 2023 09:59 IST
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'We buried her yesterday.'
'There were so many bodies, they could not fit in the hospital anymore, so they put them in an army base nearby.'

IMAGE: Shira Eylon loved trance music. Photograph: Kind courtesy Adar Eylon

Shira Eylon was like any other Israeli girl.

Only 23, she was wise beyond her years.

She loved animals.

She would fix everyone's problems and one day, hoped to become a psychologist.

She loved trance music, and wanted to spend a Friday night with her best friends Amit and Mey, at the open-air psychedelic trance Nova festival in Israel.

It was the last night of her life.

Her older sister Adar, 29, recounts that fateful night, even as she passes on a request through Ronjita Kulkarni/ "We need the rest of the world to come and help us."


The Morning After

IMAGE: The personal belongings of festival-goers are seen at the site of the Hamas attack on the Nova music festival in southern Israel. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

On Saturday (October 7, 2023), Shira called my dad at 7 am and told him that the Hamas had sent rockets.

This is something that happens a lot, every few months.

She wanted to go to her car and go away from there, but was scared to drive because of the rockets. So she decided to wait.

Thirty minutes after, she texted my dad and said that she heard gunshots.

Ever since then, we tried to call her, but couldn't reach her.

Apparently, the terrorists had surrounded the party, then they came inside and just started shooting everyone at zero range.

They killed people, kidnapped people, stole equipment.

After they finished, they went to the nearest village, killing people in the streets, breaking into houses and killing everyone.

They kidnapped babies, children and adults.

They chopped the heads of 30 babies.

Searching For Shira

IMAGE: Israeli soldiers walk through the site of the attack on the Nova Festival. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

My friend and I started looking for information on Shira on Tik Tok and Telegram.

The terrorists were filming themselves killing people and uploading it. They were proud of it.

We saw the killings there, people getting shot in the leg...

I managed to speak to a few friends of Shira (who were at the festival), trying to hear as many stories as I could.

They told me that the police and army could not reach them.

Even though they were all begging for help, no one came to save them.

The terrorists would not let anyone in. They shot on the streets, at cars passing by, so nobody could get inside.

Some people hid in the forest.

They said it felt like they were running away from the Nazis.

A terrorist shot one of Shira's friends Mey in the leg and thought she was dead, so he left her there. That's how she managed to escape. She's in a wheelchair now, but recovering.

Another friend found an abandoned tank with a dead soldier inside it. So she hid behind it for five hours until a civilian came and picked her up.

A friend said that once the shooting started, everyone was running away. He looked back and saw Shira and her friend Amit running. He heard screaming but didn't look, he kept running.

So he told me he didn't know what happened to them because he kept running. But apparently, a terrorist shot them (Shira and Amit) at zero range.

We managed to locate Shira's phone in Gaza and at first, we believed she had been kidnapped. But actually, the terrorist killed them and stole the phone.

'I did not see the body'

IMAGE: The Eylon sisters: Shira, 23, Strav, 27, and Adar, 29.Photograph: Kind courtesy Adar Eylon

After five days, the army came to our house.

We had given them my father's hair as a DNA sample for recognition and they told us that it matched.

Apparently, the body was lying in the forest for five days.

I did not see the body.

We buried her yesterday.

There were so many bodies, they could not fit in the hospital anymore, so they put them in an army base nearby.

There were 1,000 people who were murdered, and so many injured.

There was so much chaos.

'Shira loved India'

IMAGE: Shira on her visit to India. Photograph: Kind courtesy Adar Eylon

My parents are not doing too well.

My mum is just lying in bed, she fell sick. She didn't take it well.

We are three sisters, including Strav.

Shira was the youngest.

She had just come back from India a few months ago. She loved India. She had gone to a yoga retreat there.

She was supposed to start university, do her psychology degree.

'This is not a war'

IMAGE: Burnt cars at the site of the attack on the Nova festival. Photograph: Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

Everyone is traumatised and depressed here. No one feels safe.

The rockets and air raids are still going on.

No one is safe anymore, anywhere (in Israel).

The army is asking civilians to join the war but they don't have enough weapons and equipment to give everyone. It's crazy, they can't defend themselves!

We weren't prepared for this war.

Actually, this is not a war. It is not one country against another country.

They attacked civilians in their homes.

They didn't attack the army or any army base.

It's very important to say that this attack is not war.

'This is not the way to live'

IMAGE: A sign reads 'Chill out zone' at the site of the attack on the Nova festival. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

I'm living with my parents now, and they have a shelter. I'm going to stay here for a while.

The terrorists send rockets every few months, that's why we have shelters.

Now, it is mandatory for new buildings to have shelters because these attacks are very common.

A few years ago, I had said this place is very safe, safer than any other country. But in the past year, it's become horrible.

Every few months, they send rockets on us.

Every few months, they attack right in the middle of Tel Aviv, where we live, in the middle of the street.

This is not the way to live.

'This will go on for a very, very, long time'

IMAGE: An Israeli soldier inspects the burnt car of a festival-goer at the Nova festival Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Right now, nobody is going to work. Everyone is at home.

I have not stepped out of the house for a week.

The shops, malls, restaurants, everything is closed.

The supermarkets are open, but empty. But we have stocked up on food.

I believe 200 people have been kidnapped, so I think this will go on for a very, very, long time.

I am worried for my friends who have joined the army.

I am worried about surviving.

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