Virtual reality puts viewers in locations where 7/10 massacre took place

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Virtual reality puts viewers in locations where 7/10 massacre took place

Survivors of Black Shabbat join Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely in London for global launch of project that uses personal videos seen for the first time

Screenshot: /
Screenshot: /

A powerful virtual reality educational tool being used to bear witness to the horrors of the 7 October Hamas attacks has been launched in London.

The Israel-based NGO Israel-Is teamed with the genocide testimony specialist Dr Stephen D Smith to create Be the Witness, enabling viewers to stand in the locations where the atrocities took place with the people who survived.

The project to create it started two days after the massacre as an Instagram page called Survived to Tell. Now, seven months later, the 10-minute VR feature includes footage, text messages and personal videos from five survivors taken on 7 October that are being seen for the first time.

Addressing a group of journalists on Wednesday, four of the featured survivors spoke about their experiences.

Be the Witness VR headset. 8th May 2024. Pic: Michelle Rosenberg

Millet Ben Haim, 28, hid in the bushes for hours after evading capture by terrorists chasing her at the Nova Peace Festival.

Mazal Tazazo, 33, is an Ethiopian-Israeli social worker and trainee architect whose two friends were murdered next to her. Enduring a serious head injury from the butt of a gun, she faked death to avoid capture. One of her fingers is permanently damaged from where she instinctively used her hand to protect the back of her head from the assault.

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Remo Salman El-Hozayet, 37, is a Muslim-Israeli Bedouin police officer who arrived at the Nova festival for his shift just as the attacks began. He used a small car he found, with a full tank and keys still in the engine, to make more than 20 return journeys to the festival site. He saved the lives of 200 partygoers.

The CEO of Israel-Is, Nimrod Palmach, 39, was a first responder on 7 October. An IDF reservist, he defied orders, drove to the south and fought for 15 hours against dozens of Hamas terrorists, saving more than 500 lives at Kibbutz Alumim.

From left: Nili Bar Sinai, Mazal Tazazo, Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, Millet Ben Haim, police officer Remo Salman El-Hozayel and IDF reservist and Israel-Is CEO Nimrod Palmach at the Israeli embassy in London, 8 May 2024

Be the Witness also includes the story of Ofir Engel, 18, a Dutch-Israeli national and hostage who was taken by Hamas from Kibbutz Be’eri and spent 54 days in captivity.

Palmach said: “I witnessed the massacre on 7 October first-hand. My motivation behind Be the Witness VR programme was to put the viewer in my shoes from that day. Spurred by the motto ‘never again’ – this immersive experience provides insights that will enable this generation to have positive conversations. We need to build bridges that stand against Jihadist extremism in the name of the shared values of human rights, love, empathy.”


Stephen Smith said: “7 October is a scar on the heart of humanity. VR takes us there, to the time and place itself. As a film producer and oral historian whose professional career has been dedicated to telling the story of Holocaust survivors, I know very well that developing empathy is a first step to deeper understanding. Be the Witness allows viewers to take a few moments just to be in the presence of ordinary people who went through an extraordinary event, and see it through their eyes.”

Dr Stephen Smith at the global launch of Be the Witness at the Israeli embassy in London, 8 May 2024

Israeli ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely said of the VR experience: “For me it was like being there, being one of the dancers at the festival. Antisemitism has never been at such a peak. We need to fight back and this VR is part of it.”

Ben Haim added: “Since I survived, I must talk about it for those who can’t.”

Following the launch, the programme will roll out globally with delegation visits to university campuses. More information about Be the Witness can be found here.

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