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‘Total chaos’: Survivor of Israeli music festival attack shares story

Hundreds gathered Tuesday night at a Summerlin temple to hear the harrowing account of an escape from the Israeli music festival last month as Hamas terrorist attacks began.

At Temple Beth Sholom, near Town Center Drive and Havenwood Lane, Shye Weinstein described the “total chaos” of the early hours of Oct. 7.

“I wish we were gathered here to listen to the testimony of something wonderful that happened to our people but we’re here to do the opposite,” Rabbi Felipe Goodman told the crowd.

Born in Canada, Weinstein, a 26-year-old photographer, had been living in Tel Aviv since April and decided to attend the music festival at the last minute.

“I’m here talking to you in a similar format that Holocaust survivors go to high schools to talk to teenagers except I’m a 26-year-old,” Weinstein said.

Henderson resident Ami Leshefsky wore a shirt with the words “The Jewish Nation Lives” written in Hebrew. He wanted to hear firsthand from someone experienced the attacks to “realize the depravity of what took place over there,” Leshefsky said.

“It’s been awful,” Leshefsky said of the more than 50 days since the attacks.

Weinstein described the festive atmosphere before rockets flew overhead and were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. He said seeing images of rockets exploding overhead do not prepare someone for being there in person.

“What you don’t get is the feeling of the air vibrating around you,” Weinstein said.

The festival stopped, but attendees did not know of the attack and started leaving without panic.

What sounded like gunfire from a distance soon began within the festival grounds causing mass panic as people fled on foot and in cars. Photographs of people Weinstein met at the festival flashed on the screen as he spoke accompanied by brief anecdotes of their interactions.

“Events like this leave a lasting impact on those who were there,” Weinstein said. “It leaves an impact on those who know someone who was there.”

Videos of Weinstein and his friends’ escape from the festival provided images to go along with his description of bullet-ridden vehicles, men armed with guns and bodies strewn along the road. After leaving the festival around 7:45 a.m., the group arrived back in Tel Aviv unharmed around two hours later.

To close, Weinstein flashed through the pictures of the people he met and explained how most escaped and how two people did not.

“You don’t have to be killed for them to win,” Weinstein said. “Stopping your life is letting them win.”

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com.

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