Nova Music Festival survivor will speak in Calgary on March 11

Marathon runner Or Elmakias survived the October 7 terrorist attack at the Nova Music Festival. While trying to escape she was shot in the leg and is now on a journey of physical and emotional healing. She will be in Calgary on March 11. Tickets are free on Eventbrite.

By Danyael Halprin

(AJNews) – Israel’s Or Elmakias, 27, is a survivor of the October 7, 2023 terrorist attack at the Nova Music Festival. While trying to escape she was shot in the leg and is now on a journey of physical and emotional healing.

Elmakias was working at the festival, scanning tickets at the entrance. She had worked through the night and the dawn had newly broken. It was 6:29 a.m., Israeli psytrance DJ Artifex was playing and everyone was dancing. “All of a sudden we started seeing a lot of missiles in the sky and we realized it was not a regular attack. It did not look like anything we’d seen before,” says Elmakias in a phone interview from Israel.

The DJ stopped playing and everyone started running to their cars in the parking lot. There was chaos, confusion, fear… The gunshots were getting louder, closer. People were looking for places to hide, they were being shot at and falling to the ground, screaming, crying hysterically… Elmakias was shot in her right leg near the knee while trying to get to her car. Nine of her friends were murdered at the festival.

“We just wanted to dance. Most of the people who were at the festival were young men and women and they were murdered just because they were Jewish,” says Elmakias. “It wasn’t just murder. The terrorists boasted, raped, butchered.”

As she was running through the field with her leg bleeding a guy took off his green shirt and tied it around the gushing artery, ultimately saving her leg. Because so many cars were trying to exit the festival at the same time it caused a bottleneck to get onto the road, but one group of people helped her inside their vehicle and were able to drive away. To all these angels, she wrote on her Instagram post on October 20, 2023: “The gratitude is not understood! The choice to save someone you don’t know while understanding that you are exposing yourself and wasting time instead of running and saving yourself.”

The IDF was caught off-guard by the terror attack, but Elmakias says she doesn’t know why it took the army so long to respond. “There’s a lot we don’t know.” Their car managed to get in touch with the ambulance service Magen David Adom who told them which roads to take to safety. And with G-d’s help, of that she is sure, they reached Kibbutz Tsalim, far from the party. After four to five hours, she was able to get medical attention at the clinic but because of the severity of the gunshot wound she was transferred to Soroka Medical Centre, 45 kilometres away in Be’er Sheva.

Elmakias’s right leg is seriously injured with entry and exit holes from the bullet. Before the attack she was living in Tel Aviv but she is now in Netanya with her parents who are helping her rehabilitation. She has been speaking to a psychologist, who, she says, has been very helpful in processing the trauma, and she works with a physiotherapist a couple of hours a day.

Elmakias graduated with an honours in psychology. Right now she’s unable to work or play sports but she intends to continue her master’s degree in education at Levinsky College in Herzliya and teach Grade One students.

In December 2023, Elmakias travelled to New York where she spoke to Jewish students from 40 campuses across North America, sharing her story and insights into the complex reality of what is happening in Israel. Elmakias says she’s not interested in politics but says her government must bring the hostages home now. “We don’t have a lot of time and a lot of them have died.”

A long-distance runner, Elmakias specializes in the half-marathon. She ran a few half-marathons in the past two years in Tel Aviv. Elmakias is currently on crutches. She says she will be able to walk free of them in a couple of months, but it may be another two years until she can run again. On her Instagram post on November 23, 2023, she wrote: “They asked me, What would make you a little happier? To run. What will help you alleviate the trauma? To run… The light will return and a day will come and we will dance (and run) together.”

In her Instagram photos, the sunlight illuminates her happy, free spirit as she dances at various music festivals over the years. Elmakias is resilient and positive and she has the mental fortitude of a runner.

Or Elmakias will be speaking at Calgary’s Beth Tzedec Congregation on March 11, 2024, an evening hosted by Students Supporting Israel. Tickets are free on Eventbrite, go to Students Supporting Israel Calgary on Instagram @ssicalgary.

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