Content warning: This article discusses recent violence in Israel and death.

On November 23, Shye Klein Weinstein visited the Hillel U of T Wolfrond Centre to tell students about his experience of the October 7 Hamas attack at the Supernova Music Festival in Israel. Hillel and the Zionist advocacy organization Allied Voices for Israel co-hosted the event. 

Weinstein, a photographer from Toronto, was in attendance at the October 7 Supernova festival. He shared that he didn’t originally plan to attend but decided to go at the last minute with his cousin and some friends. According to Rolling Stone, between 3,000 and 4,000 people attended the festival, which took place in southern Israel near the Gaza border. The festival was scheduled to run October 6–7. 

On the morning of October 7, at the festival, Weinstein and others saw hundreds of rockets in the air. Although Weinstein explained that it isn’t unusual to see rockets flying over Israel, the non-stop rockets flying overhead “for over half an hour” created an “overwhelming sense of anxiousness.”

Weinstein said that he, his cousin, and his friends took some time to pack up to get ready to leave. However, they abandoned their things and quickly got in the car when they started hearing gunfire. Hamas militants had blocked roads and began pursuing people, something that Weinstein witnessed as his friends and his cousin tried to drive away. 

Another attendee, he said, “[was] screaming for us to get out, to run, to get out right now this second because we’re being shot at. Everyone in our direction was being shot at.”

As they tried to leave, Weinstein saw men wearing masks and carrying machine guns, along with dead bodies. He shared videos and photos that he had taken of the experience with U of T students. 

In total, Hamas militants killed at least 260 people at the festival. 

In an interview with The Varsity, Weinstein said that he hoped sharing his story and speaking to students would encourage them to continue to spread love and support and move forward. “I want people to know that, even though this is something that happened to our community, and to many of our friends and family and friends of friends, we shouldn’t stop our lives just more than be afraid. We should support each other and give each other as much love as possible,” he said.

Roey Stav — a second-year Israeli student double majoring in conservation biology and environmental ethics with a certificate in sustainability — told The Varsity that they personally know someone who also survived the musical festival attack. They attended the event because they found it important to learn about the experiences of survivors and support them. 

“It was a very tough presentation to sit through — a lot of emotions, a lot of grief, worry, and anxiety. Just sitting there watching the videos and hearing his story, I could hear my heart beating. And, I don’t know, it’s just reminding me of what I felt like on October 7 when I heard about this,” said Stav.