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Akiva Gersh

The Angels of Nova

I went to the site of the Nova festival.
I’ve been to Poland many times guiding groups to death camps and pulling up to the Nova site brought up that same feeling for me as pulling up to Auschwitz or Majdanek. That same sense of trembling and trepidation and fear.
We parked, got out of the car and began walking amongst the hundreds of photographs of those that came to the festival to dance under the stars and celebrate life but who never returned home because they were either brutally murdered or abducted and dragged into Gaza.
Then there was a group of people who asked my son if he would take a picture of them next to one of the photographs. After he did I walked up to them and asked them who this person is.
The man said, “It’s my daughter’s boyfriend. She was killed here and he was taken by Hamas and is still a hostage.”
The five of us just stood there in silence.
And then we cried together.
I continued to walk amongst the faces and then decided to walk into the forest surrounding the memorial area.
That’s when I saw a sign that said “Camping” and I stopped in my tracks, imagining that entire area filled with tents and mats and chairs and coolers and people hanging out.
I had brought a small drum with me thinking I might want to play some music at this site that was all about music bringing people together. So away from the memorial site and the people visiting it, amongst the trees, I put my drum on the ground and started to play.
After a while I started to sing out loud and the words that came to me were from the verse from Psalms, “May there be peace in your walls, tranquility in your palaces.”
And that’s when I started to picture hundreds of shining people from Nova in front of me dancing to the drumming and singing along with me.
It’s hard to describe the experience in words, but it was beautiful and it was powerful and eventually even the trees around me resembled people dancing with their hands stretched high towards the heavens.
And in that moment I thought and I felt and I believed that all who were murdered so brutally at this site on October 7th, those who experienced the worst possible horrors this world is capable of, their souls are now free, far beyond the pain and evil and darkness and brokenness of this world, residing in the highest heavens where all is good, all is peaceful, all this tranquil, and all is love.
It’s a crazy thing to say, but I was happy for them.
And I felt blessed to have had the opportunity to be with them in that moment, in that place, in song and dance, and in celebration of a spark of life that can never, and will never, be destroyed or tainted, even by our worst enemies.
May their memories be a blessing for the entire world.
About the Author
Akiva Gersh has been working in the field of Jewish and Israel Education for over 20 years. In 2020 he founded @Israel to share his love and passion for Israel with students, schools and communities around the world through his online classes, courses and virtual tours of Israel. Akiva is also the editor of the book "Becoming Israeli" (at-israel.com/book), a compilation of essays that gives an inside look at the unique experience of making aliyah and the journey of acclimating to life in Israel. Akiva himself made aliyah in 2004 with his wife Tamar and they live in Pardes Hanna with their four kids. You can learn more about his work at www.at-israel.com as well as about his work teaching about Judaism and veganism at www.akivagersh.com/veganrabbi.
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