We Will Dance Again — Helping the Nova Survivors

Courtesy of Lana Platin
Courtesy of Lana Platin

In January, while in Israel, I listened In to Ron Segev tell the story of how he survived the Nova massacre. He is a gifted storyteller with a compelling narrative about how he escaped, the aftermath, and the resulting trauma. Watching Ron tell the story in person, we could see and hear pain emanating from his body and his voice; he was drenched in it. After he finished his story, he said, “I am still there with them.” Fifteen percent of the Nova music party festival attendees were murdered or kidnapped.

The Nova survivors are in a unique situation because they were not part of a built-in community that existed before October 7<sup>th</sup>. While the soldiers are part of a close-knit organization, and the kibbutzim who were so brutally attacked are by their very nature communal, the Nova party attendees were, for the most part, strangers before the massacre. From what I understand, this has made the healing process especially difficult.

While researching any existing Nova support organizations, I came upon the story of Daniel and Neria Sharabi, two brothers in their early twenties who heroically helped save dozens of people by sheltering behind a tank and using weapons they found therein. They stayed on the phone for hours with Daniel’s former IDF commander who was advising them. Daniel was a combat medic in the army, and they also treated the wounded. They lost many friends that day, and Daniel’s best friend, Yosef-Haim Ohana, was taken hostage by Hamas and is still in Gaza. They went on to found a non-profit, The Association for Survivors and Wounded, which is dedicated to helping the more than three thousand Nova survivors, many of whom can neither work nor sleep.

I am not a big user of social media, but when I returned from Israel, I decided to download Instagram, specifically so that I could follow and keep up with some of the many people and influencers I met there.  I looked for the Sharabi brothers, found Daniel, and DM’d him. He responded almost immediately. As luck would have it, he and Neria were currently in New York as part of a cross-country trip and were going to be speaking at a synagogue 15 minutes from my home in New Jersey later that week.  He invited me to attend the event with my friend, Michele. We went, and the brothers did a great job explaining their story and marshaling resources to help survivors.

On Instagram, I also got to witness Ron spend time speaking to groups in both Israel and New York. I am sure his presence and his story impacted all of his listeners. For Ron and the Sharabis, the retelling of their stories and their efforts to help the Nova community are helping them combat their trauma.

The other morning, before I even got out of bed, I scanned the news. I saw that two young Nova survivors were detained and harassed by border police in Manchester, England. According to a complaint filed over the incident, upon release, they were told “They had to make sure that you are not going to do what you are doing in Gaza over here.” I very quickly realized that those two survivors were Daniel and Neria Sharabi. They now have bookend stories in the media—the first how they saved dozens of people and started a non-profit, and the second how they were the victims of blatant anti-Semitism as they sought to tell their story to Manchester’s Jewish community.

I understand the power of stories. This month my book club selected <em>No Two Persons, </em>by Erica Bauermeister. On Goodreads, the novel is summarized as follows: “One book. Nine Readers. Ten Changed Lives.” The book club members were amazed how deftly the author connected ten different characters; a character in one story could profoundly affect a character in another story, sometimes without them even meeting.

While <em>No Two Persons</em> celebrates the power of fiction, real life stories have tremendous power to impact a listener. I have listened to many Israelis’ stories since October 7<sup>th</sup>. Every story has remained a part of me. My heart breaks for each victim, survivor, and family member, and I would do anything in my (fairly limited) power to help them all. I was in contact with Ron recently, and he mentioned that he is hoping to return to the States soon for another speaking tour. I reached out to friends and contacts all over the country to see if they could help arrange events and was gratified to see that so many others want to hear his story.

About the Author
Leslie Perlmutter resides in New Jersey with her husband, her dog, Hank, and occasionally her three almost-grown children. A former attorney, she is a freelance writer covering a wide range of topics.
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