Horrors in ink: October 7 massacre survivors commemorate their pain with tattoos

Simultaneously wanting to suppress and commemorate, survivors of the horrific Hamas massacre have found a way to always have a reminder of how that day has changed their lives forever - by tattooing it on their skin

Gilad Jalon, Mor Goren|
Every day, many Israelis visit the Liav Tattoo studio in Modi'in with the intention of immortalizing the spirit of the current period in history on their bodies, according to tattooist Liav Forer. The most popular request, he says, is a Star of David tattoo, followed by the date October 7, or the logo of the Nova Nature Party, where many revelers were murdered, injured or kidnapped by Hamas terrorists.
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Forer further reveals that he receives other, more personalized requests, such as tattooing the names of loved ones and acquaintances who lost their lives in the terrorist attack. In the last two weeks Forer has inked at least 10 tattoos daily related to the attack, the war or the survivors. "It's reminiscent of the (Nazi) tattoos during World War II, but this time it's a choice we make. It unifies us and instills strength, reminding us that we will prevail," he says.
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קעקועי חרבות ברזל שרון אדוארד - שם המקעקע- דניאל גלנוב מסטודיו בום טאטו אילת
קעקועי חרבות ברזל שרון אדוארד - שם המקעקע- דניאל גלנוב מסטודיו בום טאטו אילת
The Nova party in Re'im and the date
(Photo: Danirl Galnov)
The Hamas attack has affected Forer personally. Several of his friends were victims of the violence. In addition, his scheduler and artist Mia Schem was tragically kidnapped and taken to Gaza. Prior to her abduction, Schem had drawn a new tattoo of a Star of David and hearts.
Reflecting on their relationship, Forer says that Schem had stepped in to assist him when a friend who worked at the studio had to leave the country, eventually becoming an integral part of the business. In fact, Schem had aspirations of becoming a tattoo artist herself and was in the process of learning the craft, as it was her dream.
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קעקועי חרבות ברזל רשי יהודה רוז - שם המקעקעת נטלי אוחיון
קעקועי חרבות ברזל רשי יהודה רוז - שם המקעקעת נטלי אוחיון
Star of David, tattood by Natalie Ohayon
(Photo: Natalie Ohayon)
Following the October 7 massacre, Forer found himself uncertain about whether he would be able to resume his work. "In the beginning, there was silence. I had lost a stepbrother and over 20 acquaintances, and I wasn't emotionally prepared to return to work. I also didn't anticipate that anyone would be interested in getting a tattoo," he says. However, to his surprise, numerous inquiries and requests started pouring in from individuals who sought to express their pain through body art as a way to remember and honor their losses.
People reached out to have the names of soldiers, friends and family members tattooed on their bodies. Even those who have not personally experienced the loss of acquaintances approached Forer, seeking to commemorate the shared tragedy. Forer highlights the significance of the survivors who come to the studio, sharing their stories and finding fortitude within the process. He remarks, "Their presence and stories serve as a source of inspiration, demonstrating the unbreakable unity that exists among us."

"That's why how I digest my presence there"

Dor Magidesh, a survivor of the Re'im party massacre, visited the studio with the intention of getting a tattoo. He shared that this decision is an integral part of his ongoing recovery journey following the profound trauma he experienced.
"First and foremost, I wanted to commemorate the date, the experience, and the people we lost during that tragic event. I believe it's something that will always remain in our memory, but by documenting it on my body, I can somewhat release it from my mind and heart, while still knowing it's always there. This is how I cope," Magidesh explained.
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קעקועי חרבות ברזל אלכס גורלוב - שם המקעקעת ריטה נדורגין
קעקועי חרבות ברזל אלכס גורלוב - שם המקעקעת ריטה נדורגין
Swords of Iron tattoo by Rita Nadorgin
(Photo: Rita Nadorgin)
Magidesh experienced the tragic loss of five friends at the party, and his tattoo, featuring the date and the Nova logo, holds significance beyond their memory. "I reflect on all those who attended the party, seeking joy and spreading positivity, never anticipating that the day would end this way," he explains.
"It's not solely dedicated to a specific individual, but rather serves as a commemoration of the entire experience and the people present, representing the entire nation. This tattoo allows me to process questions like 'Why me? Why did this happen to me?' It helps me come to terms with the fact that I was there and endured it. I realized the need to express and carry this experience with me. I hope that in the future, I can focus on the optimistic aspect—the life that I have gained," he said.
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קעקועי חרבות ברזל יעקוב דוידוב - שם המקעקע אופיר ברוך
קעקועי חרבות ברזל יעקוב דוידוב - שם המקעקע אופיר ברוך
Tattooed in blood by Ofir Baruch
(Photo: Ofir Baruch)
Ma'ayan David, Forer's partner, who joined him at the studio following Mia's abduction, made the decision to get a tattoo in memory of her dear friend Yulia, who lost her life at the party. "Even in my worst nightmares, I never imagined having to bury such a beloved friend," she shares.
While this may not be her first tattoo, it holds the deepest significance of all. Forer adds a chilling detail, revealing that during the initial days, he identified the bodies of his friends in circulated videos before their families recognized them, all thanks to the tattoos he had personally inked.
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