By: Mijal Gutiérrez  | 

Roi Assaraf, Oct. 7 Survivor, Shares His Powerful Story with the YU Community

Roi Assaraf, who survived Hamas' attack at the Supernova Music Festival on Oct. 7, shared his story of miracles and survival to a crowd of hundreds of Yeshiva University students on Jan. 24.  

Roi told students, who had gathered to hear him in Furst Hall, that he had looked forward to attending the festival. Due to the pandemic and other economic hardships the family endured, Roi, a hairdresser by trade, and his wife, Yonah, had been unable to enjoy many leisure activities for almost four years prior to Oct. 7. A friend had recommended to Roi that he and his wife take some leisure time to enjoy the festival,  so the couple, along with Roi’s brother and some friends, agreed to attend the event together. 

Roi and Yonah had set an alarm to wake up early on the morning of Oct. 7. Strangely enough, it did not ring in time, and consequently, they were late to the event by a couple of hours. Due to being late, they were only able to enter a parking area far from the main stage once they reached the event. The group went inside the festival and as they were enjoying the music, Roi took out his cellphone in order to film himself and the festival around him. As he was recording, he noticed something strange at the left corner of his camera: a dark cloud growing bigger and bigger. It quickly became clear that rockets were being fired, and the sound of distant gunshots and cries grew stronger and nearer. 

“My mind went blank besides the two faces that appeared in my mind — the faces of my daughters. Before I knew it, my flight response had kicked in, and I grabbed my wife and began turning towards the exit, desperate to survive and be able to see my daughters once more.” 

Roi then recounts a series of incredible, miraculous, and scarring events. As he and his wife made their way out, he saw a man inside a car who lay calmly asleep, unaware of the chaos around him. Roi recalled the Jewish idiom which states “that who saves one life is as if he has saved the world” and, although this placed his life at risk, Roi stopped to go wake the man and inform him of the situation so he could save himself before the attackers could reach them. Roi later found out that the man they had awoken ended up saving over 20 lives that day. 

He continued to seek his way to the car, desperately trying to get in touch with his brother and friends who had accompanied him to what had just been an innocent music festival. Though Roi and his wife and brother were able to escape — through an emergency exit that he was only able to access due to being late — many of his friends could not. Some of his friends were able to survive by hiding for over 6 hours. Some friends were taken hostage by the Hamas terrorists, and are still being held in Gaza. Others were tragically murdered in the attacks. 

As Roi and his family drove in an attempt to escape, they passed by a military vehicle with what appeared to be Israeli uniforms and soldiers. His wife expressed relief believing these were our soldiers, who had finally come to protect them against the attack. The relief was short-lived, as the moment they got closer to the vehicle, the undercover attackers began to fire at all the people nearby. They were terrorists disguised as soldiers, mass shooting at anyone fleeing from the festival. Roi immediately yelled at his brother who sat in the back seat to duck and held his wife’s head under the dashboard before ducking himself. Pure fear and panic rushed through his body as he kept his foot on the pedal and drove — without a clue as to where he was headed — as bullets rained all throughout their vehicle. He drove until they were sure they weren’t under fire anymore, until finally, they were able to make their way back home to their daughters. 

They had barely survived.

Roi and his wife were reunited with their daughters, one of whom could barely recognize him after he walked in shaken and shocked from what he had just survived. They soon found out about the bloody attack that had taken place. Little by little they began to find out about the friends who had been taken hostage, whose bodies had been found, or those who had managed to survive. Roi recalls that life has not been the same since that day. 

On one hand, he shares about how this experience helped him realize what a real “worry” is. All his life he had spent worrying about how he was going to provide for himself and his family, how his business as a hairdresser would continue, and so on. Now he was more than sure that these things are, and have always been, in Hashem's hands. They were not real objects of true worry.

The days following the attack he and his life took part in efforts to assist in providing aid for soldiers or fellow Israelis. Roi closed his hair studio and he and his business partner gave free haircuts to soldiers in the army. As he watched the Jewish nation come together as a family after suffering from such a terrible loss, he understood how it shouldn’t take for such a horrible tragedy to take place for the Jewish nation to come together.  Sinat Chinam had been plaguing us, Roi believes, meaninglessly standing as an obstacle to the Jewish brother and sisterhood. Since the attack, Roi began to see Hashem’s works more and more, and he found a profound sense of meaning in his life and a renewed and strengthened sense of Emunah in HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

In search of establishing an even stronger connection with G-d, Roi began to take on more and more mitzvot. Though his family had always been traditional and strong believers, he was not used to an observant lifestyle but now more than ever felt the desire to connect with Hashem through his actions. Roi and his wife wrote a book based on their experiences on October 7th, along with the stories of approximately 80 other survivors, and now go around the world sharing their miraculous stories and inspiring attitudes. 


Photo Caption: Roi Assaraf speaking in Furst 501 to hundreds of YU students about his experience surviving Hamas’s terrorist attack.

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University