Amid the Nova Music Festival attack, Mazal pretended to be dead. It saved her life.

For Mazal Tazazo, October 7 2023 started as an incredibly exciting day. The mood was high at the Nova music festival in southern Israel, approximately five kilometres from the border with Gaza.

Mazal and her two friends, Daniel and Yochai, were all avid music fans and had been enjoying the two-day festival, getting ready to mark the final day of the event.

"Everyone there was having so much fun, people of all backgrounds. I was so happy," Mazal tells Mamamia

A single mother to a nine-year-old boy who she says is her "whole life", Mazal had dropped her child off with her ex-husband before heading to the festival. Her son was in the centre of Israel, an area considered safe. 

Their goodbye was like any other.

Mazal with her son in happier times. Image: Supplied.


Later her son would tell her that on the night of Friday October 6, he had struggled to sleep. He was tossing and turning and heard the rockets in the early hours of Saturday morning. It was 6:30am when the rockets began.

For festival attendees, the sounds of rockets were concerning but not extremely alarming. They figured the festival would be called off, and they would all be on their way home as a safety precaution.

But from her tent on the festival's grounds, when she heard the music replaced by intense rocket fire and gunshots, a feeling of utter panic set in for Mazal.

The next few hours were hell.

"We left the tent to see what was happening. The security guys came and told us all to quickly go. My two friends and I got to our car and started heading out of the festival, like everyone else. There was one road in, one road out, and we were stuck in a traffic jam. I could hear gunshots getting closer. The traffic wasn't moving on the road, so we decided to try and drive our car off-road between the nearby trees," explains Mazal.


"But there were big divots in the ground and our car was stuck."

Mazal, Daniel and Yochai quickly abandoned their car and tried to flee for safety on foot. The gunshots became louder and louder. 

Militants had streamed into the festival site and began firing. The festival was one of the first targets of Hamas's surprise attack against Israel in the early morning hours of 7 October 2023.

While Mazal and her friends ran for their lives, so did others around them. Many had been shot, either injured or lying deceased on the ground. Security from the festival and nearby Israeli soldiers were on the scene, trying to fight against the militants.

"It felt like there were bullets in all directions. I can still hear the shots today. We ran until we had no choice but to hide. We went off to the side of the main road, trying to hide in the bushes and cover ourselves with plants. I turned around to lay on my stomach, and had my hands on the back of my head, trying to protect it. In that moment, all I was doing was talking with God. I couldn't believe what was happening. It was surreal."

As bullets flew everywhere, one of the militants hit Mazal in the back of her head with the end of his rifle. If her hands hadn't been resting on her head in that moment, it's very likely the blow would have killed her. 


The militants weren't finished with her though. Mazal felt her legs being bound with rope. As they reached towards her face, she held her breath for as long as she could.

"I knew I needed to play dead, so I held my breath."

Mazal "thanks God" that on that morning she had chosen to wear baggy clothing. If she had been wearing a crop top and bike shorts for example, the militants likely would have seen her chest rising and falling slightly, indicating she was breathing. Her loose clothing masked it. 

The militants, assuming Mazal was dead, untied the rope and left her for dead in the field.

Passing out from the exhaustion, fear and pain from her serious head wound, Mazal was unconscious for approximately two hours. The smoke of the burning bushes at the Nova festival brought her to consciousness.

What she woke to was nothing any human ought to see or experience.

"I called Daniel's name. I called for Yochai. They didn't answer."

In our conversation in person at the Mamamia office, it takes Mazal a moment to recollect her thoughts when speaking about her friends. It's clear the pain from what happened eight months ago is incredibly raw. 

"There was silence except for gunshots. No screaming. No rushing. I keep calling their names. I turned my head next to me and saw Daniel. She was dead."


Both Daniel and Yochai were among the estimated 364 festival attendees who died that day.

Mazal in the aftermath of surviving the Nova festival attack, as well as the extensive injuries she's been left with to her hand. Image: Supplied.

Somehow finding the inner strength — and with her son "all I could think about" — Mazal ran for her life. She raced to a nearby abandoned car, and she curled up in a ball on the floor of the back seat.


One woman who Mazal was hiding with was shocked that Mazal was alive, given the state of the wound on her head. This woman herself had managed to survive by hiding between three bodies. Their stories are harrowing. Reports of rape, mutilation and zero regard for innocent human life. It's accounts like these that are devastatingly common in times of war — civilians across the board bearing the biggest toll of all. 

Many of the survivors attempted to call for help through phone calls and WhatsApp messages, however it took hours for emergency responders and military to reach the grounds.

For Mazal, she waited in that car's back seat for two hours. Finally, with the help of a fellow festival attendee, they managed to flee the scene and reach a hospital.

At this point, the attack was over. Mazal was in the hospital receiving treatment. She had survived. But she didn't feel safe. She hasn't since.

"I don't feel safe. My image on life has been blown up. I've never experienced such hate," the 34-year-old says.

Over the past eight months, she's received countless medical treatment and surgeries. It's the emotional wounds that are far deeper and harder to heal.

"My parents immigrated from Ethiopia in the '80s. I was born in Israel in the '90s. I've been an Israeli my whole life. The hate I saw and felt on October seventh, I feel like it's now my fight to have my story heard. Because a lot of people don't believe me, or don't believe us. That pain, it isn't acknowledged by some. They say I'm lying," Mazal says. 


"I now have someone I talk with like every week, to try and take care of all my trauma."

Mazal desperately misses her friends, Daniel and Yochai. Image: Supplied.


For Mazal, she's dealing with a new normal. She recently graduated as an architect, interior designer and engineer. During her career, Mazal has hopes to design and build a refuge home in Israel for children at risk, in her best friend Daniel's name. 

Mazal is also focusing on spending quality time with her son.

"I saw him two weeks after the attack, as there were airstrike lockdowns and I was in hospital. He sleeps next to me, he cares about me and helps me with the house. He's my little boy. We have an amazing relationship."

"If I thought I would never see my son again, like on that day, I don't think I would have survived. I focused on seeing him again, and I knew he was safe at least, in that moment when I was on the field. When I had him in my arms again, he didn't let go. It was crazy, surreal."

Mazal's name means 'luck' in Hebrew. It's resonance and deeper meaning isn't lost on her, especially considering that luck was undoubtedly on her side on October 7. 

For people who read Mazal's story, she hopes they focus on the humanity. The loss of innocent life across the region. All civilians deserve to live in safety and in peace. She also hopes to be believed. 

"I feel I have to talk about this. I survived. Many haven't. I think of them every day."

Feature Image: Supplied.