When 23-year-old Tamar Kam heard gunshots followed by a man speaking Hebrew, she thought it was the Israel Defense Forces arriving to save her.
Instead, Kam—who was hiding in a shower after climbing through the window of a stranger’s home—had just listened to her boyfriend being murdered.
The young couple were in a desert area near the Gaza border last weekend for the Supernova Festival, an all-night rave meant to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot. They had traveled to the small southern Israeli suburb of Kibbutz Re’im, roughly a 90-minute drive south from their hometown of Petah Tikvah, expecting to let loose. But when Hamas militants attacked the gathering just after 6 a.m. on Saturday, slaughtering some 260 revelers, the two fled for their lives.
“We had planned to go to a party,” Kam told The Daily Beast by phone from her hospital bed in Be’er Sheva, where she is recovering from a gunshot wound. “We didn’t imagine something like this.”
While cross-border rocket fire rained down, and armed fighters sprayed the crowd of 3,500 young Israelis with automatic weapons, Kam and her boyfriend ran toward a nearby village. Along the way, they happened upon an outdoor bunker where about 50 others were also hiding, and quickly ducked in to join them. However, the attackers soon began lobbing grenades into the structure, killing several people, Kam said Thursday.
Terrified, Kam and her boyfriend climbed over a series of bodies and set off once again in search of safety. The pair ran until they saw a house, but found the front door locked so they climbed inside through an open window and found the place empty. Kam ran to the bathroom, locked the door, and holed up in the shower stall. Once there, her boyfriend grabbed a kitchen knife and positioned himself near the front of the house, prepared to do his best in protecting the two of them against any militants going door-to-door.
A little while later, from her hiding spot in the shower, Kam heard a sudden burst of activity and two quick gunshots. Then, a voice saying something in Hebrew. It sounded to Kam as though rescuers had finally arrived, she said, so she emerged from the bathroom, shaken but still breathing, thankful that she and her boyfriend had been spared. Only, he hadn’t been. The pair of shots Kam had heard were the ones that killed him, it turned out. And that’s when she was shot in the abdomen.
“I thought it was soldiers coming to rescue us, but it was a terrorist speaking Hebrew,” Kam recalled as her mother, Limor, sat at her bedside. “When I came out of the shower, he shot me.”
Kam crumpled to the floor, bleeding profusely, and the attackers left her for dead, she said. When security forces from nearby Kibbutz Alumim eventually arrived, two soldiers burst inside the house and found Kam severely wounded and her boyfriend dead. However, it was still too dangerous to go outside. While they waited, Kam said the family that lived there emerged from their own hiding spot in the home’s built-in shelter, Kam and her boyfriend having taken the bullets otherwise intended for them.
Some five hours passed before the soldiers were able to get Kam to the hospital. During the excruciating wait, her boyfriend’s parents called her phone to make sure everything was OK. When she told them that their son had been shot dead, she said they started screaming.
Once it seemed safe enough to leave, Kam and the two soldiers dodged continual volleys of gunfire until the soldiers managed to find a car parked next to another house—Kam said she doesn’t remember the precise chain of events—and drove her to the Soroka Medical Center. The facility, which is affiliated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and sits about 25 miles from the Gaza border, received some 700 victims that day.
Distraught as she is, Limor Kam said she felt “lucky” her daughter survived. At the same time, the loss of Kam’s boyfriend has hit her particularly hard.
“I loved him so much,” she told The Daily Beast. “There are no words to explain. These were young kids, young people. It was a massacre.”
As one festival-goer told the Associated Press, “I can’t even explain the energy [the attackers] had. It was so clear they didn’t see us as human beings. They looked at us with pure, pure hate.”
On Thursday, Kam continued her recovery among hundreds of other wounded Israelis at Soroka. Outside, a violinist filled the air with song as a barber gave free haircuts to traumatized first responders, survivors, and their families. A clutch of famous Israeli actors showed up in Kam’s room to lift her spirits, taking photos and signing autographs.
And then, before anyone could become too complacent, the air raid sirens went off.