Local audience struggles through harrowing film on 10/7 music festival

By Carl Zebrowski

The opening imagery of the documentary “Supernova” includes a crowd of dancing teens and 20- and 30-somethings in front of a stage, arms extended in the air, heads and hands bobbing in rhythm to the live music. 

You hear the overdubbed voice of a woman talking in Hebrew on her cell phone. “We’re here with some friends,” she says. Her name is Maya Regev. “Don’t worry, Dad.” 

“What is that place called, where you’re at?” her dad asks. 

She’s at the Nova Music Festival in southern Israel on the Shabbat morning of October 7, 2023. But she needs to ask someone for the specific location. 

“Re’im,” she then tells her dad. He’s worried about Maya and her brother, Itay, who are at the festival together. “It’s really, really close to Gaza,” he says.

“Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre” premiered in the United States early this year. The film covers 24 hours that begin with 3,500 most young Israelis gathering to listen and dance to live bands before Hamas launched its now-infamous surprise attack. 

Dozens of Muhlenberg College students and members of the Lehigh Valley Jewish community sat in the Muhlenberg Hillel on April 11 to watch the film, which had premiered in the United States in February. “When I heard that there was an opportunity to organize a viewing of the ‘Supernova’ documentary on campus,” said Leah Kressel, Israel cochair at the Hillel, “I knew immediately that it was crucial to hold a screening for people to watch it.” 

Its one hour moves along quickly, and as startlingly and jarringly and excruciatingly as you might expect. More so. 

“The story will speak for itself,” Jeri Zimmerman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, told the audience just before the screening. Federation helped make the event happen. 

Hamas terrorists killed 365 people in Kibbutz Re’im that day. Hundreds of others were wounded. Forty were kidnapped and taken back to Gaza to be held as hostages along with 200 people from other areas.

Tracing the tragedy as it unfolded, the filmmakers edit together footage from cell phones, handheld video cameras, and dash cams—and from both sides: attackers and victims. They talked on camera with festival-goers, first responders, and parents whose children were taken as hostages. 

Two of the survivors who tell their story on screen spent nine hours hiding a porta-potty, struggling to keep perfectly still and silent. Meanwhile, terrorists with automatic rifles and bombs combed the area looking for festival-goers.

Maya Regev spends much of the day just trying to survive—and to find Itay, from whom she got separated. Their father sped to the scene in his car after their phone call. He found out whatever details he could about the situation and implored police and soldiers to find his kids.

The news was good for the Regev family. They survived. Maya and Itay were hospitalized with injuries, but soon were released.

The room in the Muhlenberg Hillel was silent when the film ended. The event organizers had prepared for a quiet break during which viewers could recompose themselves. Then, post-film discussion sessions would follow for viewers to open up about their thoughts and emotions. Any talking waited for that time.

Later, Danielle Hadge, Leah Kressel’s fellow Israel cochair at the Hillel, said, “Even though for many it was an excruciating film to view, it was extremely important for everyone to be aware and knowledgeable of what truly occurred, the horrific events that happened on October 7.”

Ira Blum, director of the Hillel, concluded, “My prayer is that by gathering together, as Jewish life at Muhlenberg and the Lehigh Valley, we find strength and comfort in one another, in our broader Jewish family here, in Israel, and beyond, and ultimately healing and hope."