LARNACA, Cyprus (AP) — Tomer Bassis expected his day to be filled with electronic trance music at the Oct. 7 desert rave party he was attending in southern Israel. Instead, the sounds of bullets whizzing by as he ran to escape the indiscriminate gunfire of Hamas militants became the soundtrack seared into his mind.
A 25-year-old Israeli was one of about 3,000 young attendees at the music festival who escaped the violence when militants from Gaza attacked, shooting and using rocket-propelled grenades to harm young people in a chaotic and unprecedented event.
The open-air Tribe of Nova music festival is believed to be the worst civilian massacre in Israeli history, with at least 364 dead. In a single day, Hamas and other Palestinian militants killed about 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and took around 240 people captive.
As Bassis was running, he recalls an unfamiliar girl running alongside him.
“I glanced to my left and saw her being struck by the bullet in the head. She fell to the ground right away,” he recounted. Despite his terror, he continued to run while shouting, “I apologize, I regret that I couldn’t assist you.”
“I hear the constant whistling of bullets,” he remarked. “I witness people falling.”
The traumas of that horror-filled day are what Bassis — along with some 50 other young survivors of the rave attack — has tried to come to terms with during a five-day retreat at Secret Forest, a site owned by Israel in the hills above Cyprus’ southwestern coastal resort town of Paphos.
A fellow survivor, Eyal Sirota, age 24, stated that the program’s goal was to equip him and his peers with the necessary skills to cope with the emotional and psychological toll of their traumatic experiences.
Students are instructed in various coping methods, such as breathing exercises and open communication. These techniques are supported by additional activities like yoga, meditation, reflexology, massage, and acupuncture.
Arie Zeev Raskin, a rabbi in charge of the Jewish community in Cyprus, stated that Bassis and Sirota were among the 50 survivors of the October 7th attack who were brought to a retreat in Cyprus for five days of rest, relaxation, and therapy.
Raskin stated that due to Cyprus’ close proximity to Israel and affordable flight options, it is an ideal location for a calming retreat. This could potentially aid in the healing process for those affected by the Hamas attack.
Raskin stated that NovaHelp, a team of mental health experts, is providing assistance for trips to Cyprus to aid survivors of the rave party. The financial backing for these trips comes from various charities and private businesses, such as prominent accounting firms and Jewish American organizations.
Raskin has started another project that is currently in progress. The goal is to provide therapy for parents who lost their children during the Oct. 7 attack, and this will take place in Cyprus.
On a single day of Hamas’ attack, approximately 1,200 Israelis lost their lives. In response, Israel launched intense airstrikes and a ground invasion into Gaza. According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, the ongoing war has resulted in the deaths of over 13,300 Palestinians, with no distinction between civilians and fighters.
Before returning to Israel on Thursday, Bassis’ group of survivors enjoyed a meal of hummus, kosher meats, and drinks while listening to Israeli pop and trance music at the Jewish Community Center in Larnaca.
As they commemorated life, they all joined in clapping and singing to the music.
However, even amidst joyful occasions, the trauma of that day continues to haunt Bassis.
He described his attempt to avoid a large traffic jam while running, with hundreds of cars frantically attempting to escape the shooting.
Unable to flee, he attempted to find shelter in any available space – first under the stage where the rave was being held, and eventually under an Israeli tank. There, he cradled a wounded young woman until aid arrived.
Bassis stated that he immediately took action at that location and assisted in the evacuation of injured individuals.
Six of his companions who were present at the rave did not make it.
“I will continue to dance and celebrate for my friends,” stated Bassis. “I will dance in their honor and live for them. I will strive to make my life the greatest for them.”
He stated, “My life was given back to me as a gift. I will not squander it.”