A Long Island native who survived Hamas’ slaughter at an Israeli music festival said she still doesn’t feel safe after returning home due to the increasing acts of antisemitism put on display at the countless protests that have erupted since the war began.
Natalie Sanandaji, 28, thought the worst was over after surviving the horrifying attack on Oct. 7 and returning home a week later, but the Jewish New Yorker said the ensuing onslaught of antisemitism scares her.
“A lot of people have asked if I’m scared to go back to Israel after everything that’s happened, and my honest answer is … now more than ever, I want to move to Israel,” Sanandaji told The Post as she calmly recalled her terrifying ordeal Friday.
“Even with everything going on, I feel safer there than I do in the US right now.”
The Iranian Israeli, who lives in a very Jewish community on Long Island, said this is the first time in her life that she started to get hate for being Jewish.
She said she’s watching her friends remove their mezuzahs — an encased scroll affixed to a doorframe that’s said to protect the home — and are hiding their Jewish identities over fears of being attacked.
“There’s people in Europe drawing Jewish stars on people’s doors if they know it’s a Jewish home,” she said. “A lot of what is happening right now are things that happened right before the Holocaust.”
As a child, Sanandaji was taught about the Holocaust and learned that tragedy was “started from propaganda,” and said she’s now seeing it again throughout the US education system after an NYU student was seen ripping down Kidnapped Israeli posters and teens on the Upper East Side were also caught doing the same in the aftermath of the war.
She fears history is repeating itself.
She said university students “think that this fight is Palestine vs Israel,” but the 28-year-old wants to remind the young scholars that the “fight is about Israel vs Hamas.”
“Whatever your stance on Palestine vs Israel is your stance — and all the power to you — but what people have to understand is that’s not what this fight about this right now, this fight is Israel vs Hamas, a terrorist organization that is just as complicit in the deaths of innocent Palestinians as they are in deaths of innocent Israelis,” she said.
Sanandaji was in Israel — which she’s visited multiple times since childhood — for a wedding and had extended her trip to spend time with family over the Jewish holiday.
She never thought she’d be woken up by one of the girls from her campsite, who informed them the rockets had been “sent in our way around 6:30 [a.m.]” that were “intercepted” by the Iron Dome. She was told it was normal for the area and it should end soon and the festival would continue.
As one of the only Americans in the group, the experience jarred her.
But shortly after, festival security turned off the music and had them go back to their cars. They thought it was a safety precaution, and Sanandaji asked her friends to go the bathroom before their long drive back home.
They did not know terrorists were only a few moments away — or that they were about to start running for their lives.
She would later find videos of Hamas terrorists shooting into the bathrooms she used, “just shooting at every single stall.”
“For me, that was the hardest to watch because it just showed me how close I was to death. And if I was in those bathrooms just moments later, I possibly wouldn’t be here today.”
For four hours, Sanandaji and her friends ran between the sounds of gunfire to escape to safety. At one point, they encountered a police officer who only had a handgun and a radio screeching with the sounds of Hamas’ attack.
The only recommendation he could offer them was to “run in the direction of the sun.”
The “most terrifying” moment for Sanandaji was “running in a certain direction thinking that you’re running to safety and then seeing dozens of kids running in your direction and realize that they’re running from terrorists.
“And that you’re not running to safety,” she steadfastly recalled. “You have to make a split-second decision about what direction to run in. And you don’t know if that decision is going to save your life or get you killed.”
They eventually piled into a truck that stopped to pick them up and took them to Patish. The local community guided them to a bomb shelter, where they hid for several hours and locals gave them food and water until an uncle of one of Sanandaji’s friends met them at the town border and took them home.
A friend eventually gave her a ticket to Greece, and she had to beg the airline to let her change the name on the ticket so she could flee Israel.
She stayed in the Mediterranean country for several days to get a direct flight to New York and eventually arrived a week into the war, only to find a different battle at home.
“Even though I’m here and I’m no longer in the line of fire, the truth is, I do still feel nervous.”