From Beats to Bullets – Music festivals and concerts, by and large, are gatherings for people to share their love of music and community. Some, however, fall into infamy.
There’s the 1969 Altamont Free Concert, where Meredith Hunter was killed by “security” courtesy of the Hells Angels.
There’s Woodstock 1999, whose legacy includes sexual assaults, logistical problems, looting, and property destruction.
There’s the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, where 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired 1,000 rounds from his hotel room into the crowd, killing 60 people and wounding hundreds more.
Now, there’s the 2023 Supernova Sukkot Festival in Israel.
Decades Of Conflict
The Israel-Palestine conflict is a long-standing political and territorial dispute between Israelis and Palestinians, rooted in historical claims and religious significance over the same region. The modern conflict began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Zionist movements sought a homeland for Jews, leading to the establishment of Israel in 1948.
This displaced many Palestinians, sparking wars and tensions. Over the decades, issues like borders, refugees, Jerusalem’s status, and settlements have been contentious. Numerous peace efforts, including the Oslo Accords, have been attempted with varying degrees of success. As of 2022, intermittent clashes and tensions persist, with no comprehensive solution.
One of the groups at the center of the conflict is Hamas, a Palestinian militant and political organization founded in 1987 by the Muslim Brotherhood. The organization’s primary objective is establishing an independent Palestinian state, which includes the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
Hamas has been involved in multiple conflicts with Israel, using both political and militant tactics. Many countries, including the United States and the European Union, label Hamas as a terrorist organization due to its use of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against civilians. It also, however, has a significant political presence in Palestinian territories, having won the 2006 legislative elections in Gaza.
A First For Israel
The Supernova Sukkot Festival, scheduled for October 6 and 7, 2023, was organized by Israeli production company Tribe of Nova. It was done in collaboration with Universo Parallelo, one of the largest psytrance festivals in the world held in Brazil. The festival also coincided with the Jewish Sukkot Holiday, celebrating the harvest, which started on September 29 and ended on October 6, 2023.
The festival in Israel was the first time a Universo Parallelo-licensed event was to be held in Israel. Universo Parallelo built its events on philosophies of freedom, inclusion, tolerance and a communal experience, which carried into the Israeli edition of the festival.
The lineup at the festival featured several electronic artists and DJs from around the world, dispersed over two different stages. The third stage was to offer chill-out sessions, more performers and workshops on meditation and yoga.
The festival was to host 3,500 people for non-stop music and dancing starting at 10 p.m. on October 6 and going all the way to 5 p.m. on October 7. The site was near the Re’im kibbutz in the western Negev desert, which attendees only found out about
It was also three miles from the Gaza border.
When The Music Stopped
At 6:30 a.m. on October 7, Juarez Swarup Petrillo from Brazil was scheduled to perform on the Nova stage after Israeli DJ Artifex (the last DJ to perform at the festival), while Sonik Scizzor, also from Brazil, was to be at the Mushroom Stage. Bajinn’s Living Room was scheduled to be on the Chianti Stage, the first performance following eight hours of chillout time for attendees who needed a relaxing spot.
At this time, attendees also saw rockets in the air in the skies over the festival, all coming from Gaza. Petrillo caught the first shots on his phone.
Footage of Artifex’s set being stopped the moment the chaos started has also appeared on the artist’s Instagram.
At 7:00 a.m., all hell broke loose. The festival’s power was cut. Hamas fighters blocked the only road away from the sight, shooting indiscriminately at cars. Other fighters pulled onto the site in vans and started shooting at attendees. Many tried to flee for their lives and get away in vehicles; some did before Hamas blocked the roads, and others had their cars shot up. Desperate, many ran through open fields, trying to escape. Others sought to hide on the festival site while Hamas troops searched for attendees, taking them hostage or shooting them on site.
After the violence, 260 people died, and countless others were taken hostage and brought back into Gaza. This attack was part of what Hamas called Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, a series of coordinated attacks on various communities around the border with Gaza, resulting in what is believed to be the worst civilian attack in Israel’s history. These were also the first shots of what was to be known as the 2023 Israel-Hamas War.
To Dance Again Someday
Following the attacks, Israel has gone into Gaza, threatening to turn their hiding places into “cities of ruins.” Unfortunately this also came with much collateral damage to innocent civilians living in the Gaza Strip, with unrealistic timelines for evacuation and attacks that seemed to have no regard for who was in the crosshairs. The world has strongly condemned Israel’s actions in the conflict, which has no end in sight at the time of writing, and made victims of innocent civilians on a large scale.
As hard as it is to see images from the Supernova Festival when the attacks started, it is arguably harder to see citizens displaced and fleeing violence in the middle of a warzone. One can always hope that the conflict will end and that those displaced will have a chance to rebuild, and those who still hear the music will dance again, regardless of where they call home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Daoust is a guitarist, guitar educator and writer based in Gatineau, Quebec,
Canada. When not tracking guitars for artists around the world, or writing music-related
articles around the internet, he can be seen on stage with Accordion-Funk legends Hey,
Wow, the acoustic duo Chanté et Kev, as well as a hired gun guitarist around Quebec and Ontario. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Guitar Performance from Carleton University in
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.