OPINION: I was at Glastonbury but my heart was at the Nova festival

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OPINION: I was at Glastonbury but my heart was at the Nova festival

If you watched Glastonbury, you may have noticed two poignant flags – one bearing the logo of the Nova music festival and another that read: "We will dance again." Here, Liahav Eitan shares his experience of proudly carrying them

Liahav Eitan at the festival.
Liahav Eitan at the festival.

While by no means my first Glastonbury, last weekend’s festival felt very different. It was the first since 7 October and the first since Nova, the festival in Israel where thousands of music lovers had to run for their lives under gun and rocket fire. Where hundreds were tortured, raped, murdered and kidnapped. Many are still held hostage.

It was a difficult and complex experience. Every little detail was extremely triggering: the stage designs, the outfits, the sunrise, the face jewels, the dust, drone display, fireworks… It’s hard for most people to understand how Jews spent every minute of Glastonbury thinking about their brothers and sisters slain that day, about their families, the survivors and the hostages.

I dealt with my Glastonbury trauma by carrying two flags: the official Nova flag and one that read “We will dance again”, a phrase that has become the symbol of the Nova community. They were meant to express that while I was physically at Glastonbury, my heart was with the Nova community. Every last dance was dedicated to them.

It is unthinkable to attend Glastonbury without acknowledging Nova.

Unfortunately, some of the people I went with , including those I considered friends, were unsympathetic. When I put up the flags next to my tent they asked me to take them down, citing concerns about “irrational people” associating their tents with mine and vandalising them. When I refused, they decorated their own tents with a “boycott Israeli apartheid” sticker.

The irony is not lost on me that by trying to force me to hide my Jewish-Israeli identity and silence my grief for their own protection, and by spreading the “apartheid” blood-libel, they created the antisemitic incident they were so worried about.

“My method of dealing with my vicarious trauma in Glastonbury was to carry two flags: the official Nova flag and one that read “We will dance again”, a phrase that has become the symbol of the Nova community after the massacre.”

They did not consider how inappropriate, hateful and disrespectful to our dead it is to respond to our mourning with the flags of those who murdered them. How close they came to gloating over it, to celebrating dead Jews, just like others did in London and all over the world on 7 October. From that point on, some people in the group completely shunned me and my wife Efi. A few others made a point of being extra nice, for which I’m grateful.

There is a silent majority of British people who see and acknowledge the Jewish and Israeli pain and oppose the wave of hate towards us.

Thankfully and surprisingly, outside that small group, we got nothing but love for carrying those flags. We couldn’t walk five minutes without someone stopping to give us a hug, thank us for carrying the flags, take pictures with us, dance with us, cry with us in their memory.

We met many amazing people dealing with the trauma in their own ways, including gestures of their own: anything from a “we will dance again” t-shirt or a #bringthemhomenow bracelet, to “free the hostages” written all over their chest. So many people felt included, empowered and safer when seeing those flags, and we were so grateful for their love and for the opportunity to meet them and share this experience.

Waking up to see the boycott sticker each morning, I couldn’t help but smile, think of all the love I’ve received at the festival, and really feel the meaning of the slogan “Our love is stronger than their hate.”

“Friends decorated their own tents with a “boycott Israeli apartheid” sticker.

Even non-Jewish people who didn’t know about the Nova festival but cared to ask had nothing but love and empathy to offer, regardless of their political views. Their warm and kind reactions showed me there is a silent majority of British people who see and acknowledge the Jewish and Israeli pain and oppose the wave of hate towards us. They wanted us to be able to wear our identity with pride, and were very happy to see our presence.

My takeaway from this experience is that despite the biased media and despite antisemitism running wild, we have more allies than we might think. Even though they tend to be silent, there are a lot of decent people in this country who want us included. The Jewish community needs to be more visible, to stop being intimidated, to wear its identity with pride.

We are a new Jewish generation, and in the face of hate, we will not hide and we will not bow.

We will dance again and again, for as long as it takes.

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