Israeli couple photographed kissing during Hamas attack recount moments of horror

Amit Bar and Nir Giorno, whose photo became a symbol of the war against Hamas in Israel, say they wanted to leave a memory of their love in case they didn't make it out alive
Amit Bar and Nir Giorno living in central Israel never imagined they would one day be photographed kissing under fire, while dozens of Hamas terrorists were targeting them. But they said they wanted to leave behind proof of their love in case something happened to them during those horrible hours.
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Like thousands of others, Amit and Nir arrived at the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im on October 7, and soon found themselves running for their lives after Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel and arrived at the festival site – massacring anyone they could find.
6 View gallery
עמית בר וניר ג'ורנו
עמית בר וניר ג'ורנו
Nir Giorno and Amit Bar
(Photo: Efi Sarir)
The couple had not originally planned to head to the festival, as they’d been celebrating at a different one the day before. “We were resting and I wanted to sleep in, but Nir was working as a publicist for the festival, and we’d been planning to go there for months,” Amit said.
"We had also agreed to go to the party with three more friends - Noam, a good friend of Amit, and Paz and Ziv Hajbi, who are good friends of mine. If we hadn't gone, we would have ruined the festival for them,” Nir explained.
The party took place very close to the Gaza border. Weren't you afraid? "I've already been to many parties in this area. It's one of the few places in the country where you can hold such large events with the police's approval. Until that Saturday, I always felt safe,” Nir said.

'Nir was always trying to protect me'

The couple met in July 2022. Amit was studying medicine in Lithuania, where she had just finished her fifth year, and was getting ready to return to Israel to begin her final year of study. "I still didn't know where I wanted to live, so I thought, as a start, I'd find an apartment in Tel Aviv," she said. "And then I came across Nir's post, looking for someone to rent a room in his apartment."
"I was living with a roommate in a three-bedroom apartment in the city center,” Nir said. “And I was supposed to head to reserve duty and then travel to a music festival in Hungary. Since I knew I would be absent for about a month, I looked for someone to take my place. After Amit contacted me, we had a video call for her to see the apartment. I liked her immediately."
"The conversation between simply flowed. It turned out we talked for hours. Each of us shared about ourselves, and our lives, and Nir really made me laugh a lot," Amit recounted
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עמית בר וניר ג'ורנו
עמית בר וניר ג'ורנו
Amit Bar and Nir Giorno
(Photo: Ziv Hajbi)
Nir, who grew up in Beit She'an, served as a combat soldier in the IDF. During his reserve service, he managed to convince Amit to join him on a trip in the north, to show her where he grew up. According to them, it was the day they fell in love.
After completing his reserve duty, Nir had planned to go to a festival abroad, but when he returned, there was no need for Amit to vacate the apartment. She stayed there to live with him. Five months later, the two moved to Matzliah, and began to plan a future together.
"It was clear to both of us that we’d get married and start a family. Amit even gave me a well-organized schedule," Nir said.
Nir: "It was clear to both of us that we’d get married and start a family. Amit even gave me a well-organized schedule."
"He knew that by next summer he needed to propose to me and that, after my internship, I would want to have children,” Amit recounted. “I remember how, as we lay on the ground, hiding from the terrorists, I thought about all the plans we had. I said to myself, thinking how crazy it is that this will be the end of us.”
At what point during the festival did you begin to feel in danger? "At around 6:30 a.m., while we were dancing, I started hearing explosions and saw rockets in the sky. I told our friends that we had to go,” Nir said. “Then, we all got into the car. We decided that Amit would drive because she was the only one who hadn't been drinking at the party."
"Many others realized it was time to go, and there was a traffic jam as we tried to leave. The police officers who were present to secure the party instructed us to head south because it would be less crowded in that direction. We drove south, but very quickly, we saw all the cars that had gone in that direction turning back. People from the cars shouted at us: 'They're shooting at us; don't drive there.' We still believed they were referring to missile fire."
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עמית בר וניר ג'ורנו
עמית בר וניר ג'ורנו
Nir Goirno and Amit Bar
(Photo: Efi Sarir)
"We continued a bit further until we reached a Border Police vehicle blocking the road. We U-turned trying to head north, but it was impossible to proceed because of a massive traffic jam, and all the vehicles were standing in place. We came to the conclusion that it was best to exit the vehicle because it wasn’t safe to stay inside a car during rocket launches,” he explained.
“We got out and lay down on the road. Suddenly, we saw people running and shouting they saw terrorists coming. It was only then that we understood what everyone meant when they said, 'They're shooting at us,' terrorists have infiltrated the area."
"We ran back toward the party area because we knew there were security personnel there. We hid among the trees for a while, but then we heard gunfire coming from the direction we came from. We started running together with hundreds of people, while dozens of terrorists on ATVs and motorcycles behind us, continuously shooting in our direction."
"Many people tried to escape with their vehicles, and at one point, my friend Noam got on a jeep with one of them, and Paz got on another vehicle. Nir, Ziv and I had no place left,” Amit said. “We continued running until I told Nir that I couldn’t run any longer. But he grabbed my hand and said: 'We have no choice. If we stop, we'll die.'"
"We wanted to get into the fields. I pulled Amit by the hand, and both of us lay down in the dirt behind some bushes. Ziv was lying a few meters away from us. We knew we had nowhere else to run, that they were surrounding us from all directions, and the only thing left for us to do was to hide without moving or making a sound, hoping they wouldn't notice us," Nir recounted.
"We wanted to call Ziv to come lie down beside us, but we couldn't. Terrorists were continuously passing by us, shooting and shouting 'Allah Akbar,'" Amit said.
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זירת המסיבה ברעים
זירת המסיבה ברעים
Site of the Nova music festival following Hamas' attack
(Photo: JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Nir, as a combat soldier in the IDF, did it ever cross your mind you’d find yourself in such a situation? "Never at such a terrifying level, where death is tangible, and you’re feeling helpless. In military operations I've participated in, there was always a sense of control. I've never found myself facing a massive number of terrorists surrounding me, shooting endlessly, without a weapon to defend myself. And the worst part: the girl you love is right next to you."
Amit, did you ever think you'd find yourself under fire?
"I think it's a nightmarish scenario for anyone, but you don't really believe it will happen to you. I thought about what would happen if Nir got shot. He's always trying to protect me, telling me what to do. When we hid behind the bushes, he covered my head with his hands. I knew that without him, I'd be lost. You felt like this was the end, and you don't want to die."

A keepsake of love

At 11:30 a.m., after four hours of lying on the ground motionless, Nir suddenly decided to take his phone and capture a photo of the both of them kissing. At first, Amit didn't understand. "I whispered to him, 'What are you doing?' I didn’t realize why he suddenly decided to take a photo after not moving for hours. Nir said, 'It's so we have a keepsake after we get out of this.' But I thought it could really be a great keepsake for our families. So that in case we die, they'll see we’ve loved each other until our final moments."
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עמית בר וניר ג'ורנו
עמית בר וניר ג'ורנו
A photo the couple took while hiding from terrorists near Re'im
(Photo: Courtesy)
How were you eventually saved? "Around 1 p.m., I started hearing shouting in Arabic. From my military service, I knew the words meant 'Stop,' which are called during an IDF arrest procedure. I realized the military had arrived. I told Amit to stay in place and crawled toward the road. After seeing an IDF vehicle, I slowly raised my hands to signal to the soldiers and quickly called Amit to join me."
Nir: "I realized the military had arrived. I told Amit to stay in place and crawled toward the road. After seeing an IDF vehicle, I slowly raised my hands to signal to the soldiers and quickly called Amit to join me."
What happened to Ziv? "A few hours earlier, we heard a vehicle passing by our hiding spot, and we knew it was an Israeli vehicle because they were speaking Hebrew. We heard Ziv leaving his hiding place, talking to them, and getting into their vehicle. I tried to tell him not to get in because I felt it was better to stay hidden,” he said.
“I shouted to him repeatedly not to get in, but I couldn't shout too loudly. He simply didn't hear me. I heard the vehicle's horn - Ziv was probably trying to signal to us to join as well. I sent him a message, but he didn't respond. That was the last time we heard from him."
The military vehicle took the couple to the Ofakim police station. After a few hours there, alongside hundreds of other survivors, the couple arrived back at their home. They met their friend Paz at the police station. Their friend Noam sent them a message that she had also made it home safely.
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זיו חג'בי ז"ל
זיו חג'בי ז"ל
Ziv Hajbi
(Photo: Adar Yosef)
For a week, Ziv was declared missing until his body was found. "Ziv was about to start a degree in Arabic and Islam studies," Nir said. "He was an extremely humble person. He always saw the good in everyone. He was the type of guy who would help anyone. I'm sure that if he had the option to escape or help, he would stop and help those who needed it. I believed that with his amazing qualities and the fact he spoke fluent Arabic, he would make it out alive. The news of his death was the hardest moment in my life. I still haven't fully digested it."
"This awful incident still hasn't fully sunk in for us. I don't feel relieved that I survived. I mainly feel guilt for sleeping in my bed, while it’s unclear where the Israeli captives are sleeping,” Amit shared.
"We've also heard about stories about couples like us, where only one of the partners survived. It's terrible," Nir added.
How do you feel about your picture going viral worldwide and becoming a symbol of the war? "It's hard to grasp,” Amit said. “We didn't want to become a symbol for anything. We would have been happier if all of this hadn't happened, and we continued with our anonymous and happy lives, when our dear friend Ziv was still alive."
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