Danny Hakim

Dance, Death and Dreams: Tel Aviv’s Triumph Over Tragedy

360 people killed at the Nova Dance party
360 people killed at the Nova Dance party

A Tale of Joy, Tragedy, and Resilience

On a sunny Friday morning filled with Hanukkah’s festive air, Tel Aviv’s peace was shattered. Hamas launched missiles, disrupting the tranquility. It was December 7, when I was at the Dolphinarium Beach Club, enjoying its opening against Tel Aviv’s vibrant beachfront when sirens forced us to seek shelter.

In the bomb shelter, amid fear and silence, a remarkable unity emerged. As the danger passed, everyone—children, mothers, youths in wheelchairs, and lifeguards—came together in a spontaneous celebration of life, a testament to our resilience.

This moment reflected the Dolphinarium’s legacy, from a place of joy in the ’80s and ’90s to a site of tragedy in 2001. And now after 22 years, a new narrative has evolved that captures the essence of our enduring spirit, facing adversity with unity and resilience.

The Dolphinarium in 1980 CCO 1.0 deed

The Beginnings: Dolphins and Dance. Inspired by the playful spirit of dolphins, the Dolphinarium was established in 1980 by a group of Jewish entrepreneurs. It quickly became a beacon of delight on Tel Aviv beach, drawing crowds to witness the graceful creatures jumping and dancing in the water. By 1990, the venue transformed into one of the trendiest discotheques in town blasting 1980s music till dawn.

In 2001, the Dolphinarium became the stage for one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in Israeli history. On June 1 at 11pm, as teenagers were queueing to enter, a Hamas suicide bomber struck the Dolphinarium discotheque, claiming 21 lives and leaving 130 injured. This attack targeted young immigrants, predominantly from the former Soviet Union, symbolizing an assault on the freedom and innocence of youth.

“Dolphinarium from 2001-2021” / CC0 1.0

This tragic event was not an isolated incident but part of a larger pattern of attacks on places symbolizing Western liberty and freedom of expression.

Global Terror Attacks on Dance Venues

2002 Bali Bombings:
One year later, on October 12, in Bali, Indonesia, Islamic terrorists targeted a busy tourist strip in Kuta Beach. Two bombs exploded in Paddy’s Bar and the Sari Club, killing 202 people, including 88 young Australians, and injuring 240. The victims represented over 20 nationalities, marking it as a global tragedy.

Twenty-one years later, on 14 October 2023, Al Jazeera interviewed Islamic terrorist Umar Patik, the 2000 Jakarta Christmas Eve church bomber and the 2002 Bali bomb maker where he revealed it was an act of revenge for the violence inflicted on the Palestinian people by Israeli forces. He said,” It is Hamas’s right to take back their land”.

He did not explain how murdering 202 innocent young tourists helped the Palestinian cause.

Bali Bombing’ / CC BY-SA 4.0.

2015 Paris rock concert massacre:
In one of three terrorist attacks on Friday the 13th of November, three Islamic terrorists burst into the concert of the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal who was playing to a sold-out crowd killing 130 civilians and injuring 416.

2016 Orlando Nightclub Shooting:
Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, became the site of a devastating mass shooting on June 12. Pulse was hosting a “Latin Night”, and most of the victims were Latino. The gunman, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.  Mateen swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.  The shooting was the deadliest terrorist attack in the US since the September 11 attack and the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the time. It was also a direct attack on the LGBTQ community.

Gov. Malloy visits Pulse nightclub memorial in Orlando, (Photo by Dannel Malloy on Flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

2017 Manchester Arena Bombing:
On May 22, a suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena in England, following an Ariana Grande concert, resulted in 22 deaths from age 8 to 51 and over 1,017 injuries. The bombing, executed by Islamic terrorist Salman Abedi, targeted concert-goers, including children and their parents, marking it as a particularly heinous attack on innocent civilians.

Manchester Arena Bombing Victims / CC BY-SA 4.0

 2019 Eurovision Event in Tel Aviv Missile Attack:
During the Eurovision contest held in Tel Aviv, near the Dolphinarium, Hamas fired missiles, aiming to disrupt this international event. The Lebanese Al Akhbar newspaper reported “Palestinian factions in the coastal enclave have warned to increased arson attacks in the border region and rockets on Tel Aviv that would “ruin Eurovision”. See Hamas video warning. This attack symbolized a direct challenge to cultural expression and international unity.

2023 SuperNova Dance Peace Festival Massacre:
The most grievous attack in Israel’s history occurred on October 7, 2023, at the Nova Dance Peace Festival, where 364 people were tragically killed, and 40 were kidnapped. This massacre targeted a festival celebrating peace, symbolizing a direct assault on the values of freedom and harmony that such events embody.

“How Hamas Turned an Israeli Music Festival Into a Massacre,” Video screenshot courtesy of The Wall Street Journal © 2023 by WSJ. WARNING! VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED

The War Against Western Values Under the Guise to Free Palestine.

These attacks are more than acts of violence; they represent a strategic misuse of Islamic concepts by extremist groups like Hamas under the disguise of freeing Palestine from the Zionist regime. They target symbols of Western freedom, as part of a larger narrative of undermining the values of joy, liberty, peace, and communal harmony.

From The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times to Rolling Stone magazine, Western culture has recognized the massacre as a direct assault on its core values. At the 2024 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. addressed the tragic incident where 360 Israelis were gunned down at the Nova music festival.”

“Music must always be our safe space. When that’s violated it strikes at the very core of who we are.” “We live in a world divided by so much… Music must remain the common ground on which we all stand, at peace and harmony,” he says.

Resilience in the Face of Tragedy.

In response to these horrors, communities across the world have shown remarkable resilience. Memorials and vigils have become symbols of solidarity, while initiatives for healing and rebuilding embody the collective will to overcome. The persistent threat to Western values has only strengthened the resolve to protect and cherish the freedom and joy that define our societies.

Sydney Australia’s Bondi Beach memorial mural to the Bali bomb victims (Courtesy)

The Rebirth of the Dolphinarium: A Symbol of Hope and Resilience. In the wake of these tragedies, the Dolphinarium, once a scene of immense sorrow, has undergone a transformative rebirth. After 2 decades, it has reopened as a vibrant center for water sports and community activities.

One such activity is The Israel Lifesaving Federation whose mission is to train volunteers to save lives from drowning. Based on the flagship Australian Lifesaving program they have introduced a new Rescue Resilience Program for evacuees and victims of October 7.

Israel Lifesavers with Australian Ambassador Ralph King at the opening of the new Dolphinarium (courtesy)
Israel Lifesaving training at the Dolphinarium Beach Tel Aviv, 2023 (Courtesy)

The Dolphinarium’s transformation, in line with Eurovision’s “Dare to Dream” theme, reflects the enduring hope and aspiration for a world where peace, joy, and freedom prevail.  This site, once marred by the darkest aspects of human action, now will shine as a beacon of light, demonstrating that even in the face of profound tragedy, communities can heal, grow, save lives, and continue to dream boldly.

The new Dolphinarium ( courtesy)




About the Author
Danny Hakim OAM is a 2 times world karate silver medalist and holds a 7th-degree black belt from Japan. He is the founder of Budo for Peace and chairman of Sport for Social Change. He is a board member of The Azrieli foundation, MWU ( Maccabi World Union), ALLMEP (the Alliance of Middle East peace), and Kids Kicking Cancer. In 2017 he was inducted into the Australian Maccabi Hall of Fame, and in 2019 was the recipient of the Bonei Zion award for Culture, Art, and Sport. In January 2022, he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to the international community.