The gunning down of hundreds of partygoers at Tribe of Nova, a trance party in Re’im, Israel, in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 terrorist attacks has wrought an outpouring of grief for those killed or taken hostage. Despite the fact that the survivors, more than 1,000 people, may consider themselves lucky to have survived the attack, many still struggle with the trauma.
In the weeks since, mental health professionals have scrambled to figure out how help the party’s survivors, some of whose trauma may have been compounded by the effect of psychedelics like LSD that are commonplace at trance events and that some of the survivors acknowledged having taken. Hamas missiles were visible in the sky because those who took LSD would have been wide eyed and extremely sensitive.
Dr. Lia Naor is a therapist and counselor who uses nature-based mental health approaches. She brought together a group to support their healing. They transformed Ronit Farm in Tel Aviv’s upscale north into the Healing Space they called Merhav Marpe.
The number of daily visitors increased from 350 to about 600 as the word spread through WhatsApp groups for survivors and other social media. The organizers said that hundreds of therapists, counsellors, and other volunteers volunteered their time to help. Among those who used the service were survivors from two smaller events nearby.
Shortly off a highway, this venue feels quiet and isolated. The venue is located far enough away from Hamas’s high-priority targets like major cities that it is rare to hear the alarms announcing rockets. Merhav Marpe uses two main areas, a large indoor space that is used for receptions as well as a lawn bordering a small pond.
On a recent trip, there were tables set up for art-making, a hot drink bar, and a section of the space dedicated to touch therapies, such as acupuncture and reflexology.
Li-tal, a 27-year-old survivor, Li Maya, reported that following her initial massage, her chest had swollen. “just expanded” First time in weeks.
The smell of incense, cigarette smoke, and freshly cut grass was mixed outside. A small dog in angel wings trotted about, while workshops on acroyoga (acro-yoga), clay sculpture, and sound healing took place. Psychotherapists conducted one-onone conversations with survivors beneath trees or picnic tables.
Dr. Naor stressed the fact that these efforts are not intended to be a complete course of treatment but rather an “immediate and integrative response to trauma.” The survivors are called “guests” You can also call it “patients,” Choose your own activities
“There is a helplessness in trauma,” Dr. Naor stated “and this is one way to restore a sense of agency.”
Some people have said that their skin has become less sensitive in the few weeks since the site’s opening, but others still feel heavy and are unable go back to the old routines. “Many of us came back almost unharmed physically,” Bar Belfer, said, is 34. “but with immense mental health issues.”
He said that he had yet to feel significant improvement in his own disturbance — but that, when he is at Merhav Marpe, he feels immense relief.
“Look at this place — it’s magical,” Mr. Belfer stated. “It’s like Nova, but safe.”
Some of the survivors have avoided formal therapy, said Gila Tolub, the site’s interim chief executive. “For some party survivors, this is the only place where nobody looks at them with puppy eyes, so they come here to feel normal,” She said “For others, this is the only place where they feel safe — they come in and just lay down to sleep on a mattress, surrounded by love and a familiar community.”
The team will re-establish a healing space in a new location, just a few miles to the south of Ronit Farm. They hope to provide a permanent presence for survivors.
The evening of the visit was approaching, and a group young people were sitting in a large circle on the grass, singing, and playing guitar. They were going through the final sequence of songs from the Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” Together they sang “Boy, you’re going to carry that weight, carry that weight, a long time.”