Ofir Tzarfati friends sharing his story


 celebrate his 27th birthday on October 6, 2023 at the Supernova an open-air music festival near Kibbutz Re’im in the south of Israel.
At 6:30am the next morning, as Ofir and Shoval went to change their shoes in their car, rockets began too explode in the sky above. Ten seconds later, the music stopped.

Shoval said to Ofir “Call everyone, we’re driving home.” In southern Israel, rocket attacks had become commonplace. Ofir calmed Shoval and told her “Everything is okay, we’re leaving, don’t worry.” Their friends collected their belongings, got into their cars, and started driving towards the festival exit, only to find it blocked by a huge traffic jam.

Everyone was honking and frustrated. Suddenly hundreds of people started running from their cars, yelling “Terrorists, there are terrorists here, they shot a woman in the head!” Ofir grabbed Shoval’s hand and they sprinted off. As they ran, they heard gunshots over their heads. They saw people frozen in place from gear, and people falling, hit by gunfire.

Shoval and Ofir hid together behind a tree with a friend of Shoval’s for four long hours. Later, Shoval would say that Ofir was her hero, directing them calmly, telling them when to run, when to crouch, not to look in the direction of the terrorists. Because of his love and reassurance, she says she never felt scared, and was confident that he would get them out of this terrible situation.

Many others, sensing Ofir’s bravery and leadership, joined them and followed him. As the gunfire was getting closer, they decided to abandon their hiding place. Out of the blue, a rescue car arrived: some civilian angels who had come to rescue people from the festival.

The first thing Ofir did was get everyone into the car, including Shoval and her friend: eight people in one tiny car. Ofir gave up his seat and tried to get into the trunk, but it was full of someone else’s gear, and he didn’t want to throw it out.

Just a few minutes later, another rescue car arrived and Ofir jumped in, despite not knowing any of the other passengers. Shoval wanted to get into Ofir’s car too, but his driver already hit the gas and sped off.

Shoval called Ofir and said “That’s it, we made it, can you believe it? We’re probably driving to the same place and will meet there.” Shortly after, she arrived at Kfar Maimon, a moshav about 40km away. She stood at the gate waiting for Ofir but he didn’t arrive or answer his phone. As rockets streaked through the sky and sirens continued to wail, her friends begged her to come inside, but she refused to move.

A day later, Shoval got a call from Ofir’s mom telling her that his car had been attacked. Eighteen days later Ofir’s family and friends were told that he’d been abducted along with Roni Gonen, the woman who was sitting next to him in the car. Ben Shimon, the brave driver who, it turned out, had come three times to rescue festival attendees had been murdered along with Gaia Khalifa who was sitting next to him in the front. Ofir was believed to have been badly injured.

Ofir’s friends Hodaya Abo and Orel Roa mounted a campaign for Ofir’s release, and joined a delegation to the US, meeting with congressional representatives and speaking to large audiences. In the midst of their trip, 55 days after Ofir had been confirmed abducted, the IDF reported that his body had been found in Gaza. His murder has left a deep hole in the lives of his many friends and relatives, and he will be sorely missed.
photo by Daniel Jackson https://dnj.photo