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Israel holds memorial at the music festival site where Hamas killed 364 people

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

One of the most chilling episodes of the October 7 attack on Israel was when Hamas militants attacked and killed hundreds of unsuspecting young people at a rave party in the Negev desert. Today, an event was held on that same spot as a way to help people heal. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley was there and sends this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ASHER SWISSA AND MOR AVRAHAMI (FEAT. NARKIS) SONG, "IM NIN'ALU")

NARKIS: (Singing in non-English language).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: In a small clearing near a eucalyptus forest, a lone disc jockey plays on his mixer board up on a stage. There are no concertgoers. His crowd is a sea of posterboard faces atop poles. These are the faces of the 364 concertgoers who Hamas militants killed here and the more than 36 who were taken hostage.

ASHER SWISSA: My name is Asher Swissa. My DJ name is Skazi. It's not massacre only of people. It's massacre of music, of freedom, of something much more bigger than us.

BEARDSLEY: Skazi says Israel is known the world over for what's called psytrance music. He was away on October 7, but he performed today with four other Israeli DJs.

SWISSA: I'd say I played many festivals in my life - international. I've been all over the world. But I never felt what I felt here in that moment. I felt sadness - deep sadness.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BEARDSLEY: The faces of those killed were also projected onto screens. The event, only a couple miles from Gaza, was hastily put together as the army gave clearance only four days ago. Armed Israeli soldiers mill about. The charred cars have been hauled away, and roads are being repaved, but there are still a few mangled beach chairs and broken coolers. This DJ concert lasted throughout the day, giving anyone who wished the time to come by. Thirty-one-year-old Bar Makos came with his twin brother for closure. They escaped the slaughter on October 7.

BAR MAKOS: (Through interpreter) This is holy ground for us, and we came back to close the circle.

BEARDSLEY: Bar says Hamas blocked the only road out that day. The siblings escaped in their car on dirt roads. They plan to leave that same way today. Bar says this is the first time he's listened to music since the attack.

MAKOS: (Through interpreter) And this is the first time I've been able to cry. The music is bringing it out.

BEARDSLEY: Bar's wish is that Israel's close-knit rave community can start dancing together again.

Twenty-three-year-old Jordan Guez had many friends who died here.

JORDAN GUEZ: It's like a kick in the stomach to see all of the faces and the people I remember and know and love.

BEARDSLEY: She says there is the Israel before October 7 and after. She used to be hopeful for coexistence with the Palestinians in the future.

GUEZ: But what I see now is that it's impossible and that they're occupied by a terrorist organization, and the world doesn't know that. It's complicated. But the fact that people think it's two countries fighting against each other - that's the narrative that I want to break.

BEARDSLEY: Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, the Negev desert in southern Israel.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIM MCNARY SONG, "DAY AT THE FALLS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.