Adar Eylon’s sister, Shira, disappeared after the Nova music festival in southern Israel was attacked by Hamas militants on Oct. 7. Her family believed she was taken hostage. But on Oct. 11, the Israeli army informed them that she had been killed. In an interview with TIME’s Mathias Hammer, Eylon, 29, describes the ordeal:
Shira, my little sister, went to the Supernova music festival. On Saturday around 7 a.m., she called my dad telling him there was bombing; they are sending rockets over us. Thirty minutes after she texted him, she heard some gunshots, and since then she didn’t pick up the phone. We called and we called until the phone was off.
I managed to find some friends of hers to tell me what happened. They told me they tried to call the police, send their location, but nobody came to rescue them because the terrorists were surrounding the entire area and shooting cars. So some of them hid in the forest for like two days. They said it was like the Holocaust, like running away from the Nazis.
One of our friends hid under an abandoned tank, which had a soldier inside who was already dead. Another friend, some terrorists shot her leg and they thought she was dead. She pretended to be dead for five hours until someone came and picked her up. And another friend told me that when they started shooting, and everybody was running away, he saw my sister and her best friend and behind them a terrorist with a shotgun. He ran faster than them, so lost them, but he could hear them screaming. But he couldn’t tell me what happened.
We located her phone in Gaza so we figured she may be kidnapped. We also tried to call every day to the hospital and to the police. She was not in the hospital or in any of the lists of the people who have survived. So we were pretty sure she had been kidnapped. It was completely chaotic; the country didn’t give us any information. They just told me, you can go look for her in the hospital to see if you can recognize someone.
The army knocked on our door two days ago, telling us that they found Shira’s body. They recognized her by a DNA test. Her body had been lying in the forest for five days. They didn’t bring them to the hospital because they were all full. They put them in a shelter near the party, and they said there were too many bodies so it took them almost a week to recognize her. It took them another day to bring her here so we could bury her. So she was dead for six days before we could bury her. Even when they came to tell us that she died, they didn’t tell us how or when.
Shira was 23. She just came back from a trip in India. She studied yoga over there. And she was supposed to start university two days ago. She was supposed to do a psychology degree. She was very gentle, very peaceful, non-violent, very dedicated. She was vegan and she would volunteer at an animal shelter. And she just started life, you know? She was just going to this party to celebrate life. The people who were there were young adults. It was kind of like Woodstock, where everybody’s into art and peace and love. They had nothing to do with this war. And I just don’t understand what kind of monster can come and attack civilians. They didn’t come to attack soldiers, or an army base. They went to a party.
—As told to Mathias Hammer