A Journey of Resilience and Healing at Freedom Farm

Nova festival survivor and traumatized calf heal together.


A Journey of Resilience and Healing at Freedom Farm | Nova festival survivor and traumatized calf heal together.

In an unexpected union, Guy Ben Shimon, a survivor of the Nova Festival massacre, a brutal attack on Israel by the Hamas terrorist organization, and a gentle calf he met at a local farm, found solace and healing in the wake of chaos and tragedy. Their bond, forged in the aftermath of unimaginable events, epitomizes hope and resilience in the face of adversity. At Freedom Farm, where Guy sought refuge after the massacre, he discovered an unlikely companion in a calf who he later named Guy, after him. Together, they navigated the path to healing, finding comfort in each other's presence amid the lingering trauma, Ynet News reported.

Finding hope at Freedom Farm
Guy Ben Shimon struggled to cope with his trauma following his terrifying encounter during the October 7th Nova Festival. Like many other festival participants, when the attack began he took cover, said his prayers, and held onto hope as bullets whizzed overhead. He says will never forget the absolute fear of that moment when he said goodbye to his family over the phone. 

Guy miraculously survived. But the trauma persisted. He arrived at Freedom Farm, a sanctuary in Moshav Olesh, Israel, in search of comfort and healing. Guy found refuge on this special farm and his road to recovery began. Taking care of the animals gave Guy a sense of purpose and comfort, especially for the calf he named Guy. Their enduring friendship embodies the farm's philosophy of recovery and rejuvenation.

"Stepping into Freedom Farm felt like entering a bubble where everything's alright. People are cheerful, animals are munching on watermelon. It's a strangely grounding experience. It's like moving from a bustling highway into a serene meadow. The farm feels like a cozy cabin amid a storm," Ben Shimon told Ynet News

The calf's story paralleled Guy's personal experiences during the conflict. The calf's survival after enduring days of fear, starvation, and thirst was evidence of its resiliency and resolve to live. "In the initial days of the war, the calf endured six days of terror, hunger, and thirst yet he hung on. It's a testament to resilience. I doubt everyone would have survived such circumstances," Ben Shimon stated, adding, "The calf was visibly weak and in pain, which was compounded by his sudden separation from his mother.”

"The calf was likely born just days before October 7th. When the war began, the area was under attack, and the farmers were unable to care for the animals. A few days later, a farmer came to tend to the cows, and was killed by a terrorist who was hiding nearby. An utterly terrifying tale.  He was terrified, but he quickly grew to trust us. Now, he's fully integrated into the herd, significantly grown, and astonishingly handsome. We organized 'love shifts' for him, where volunteers spent hours petting him and showering him with affection. This noticeably revived his trust. Guy, too, was a part of this, and we received an outpouring of volunteer applications wanting to help. Bestowing love and warmth on a survivor animal also gives back considerably to the volunteer. We've all been touched by trauma. Guy has been through a nightmare, which has fortified him. Caring for animals can bring us immense strength," Freedom Farm’s co-founder Meital Ben Ari explained.

A journey of hope and resilience
Despite Guy's difficult and tragic experiences, he has chosen to embrace the concept of finding beauty in the midst of misfortune. Before the war, 25-year-old Ben Shimon, a musician and former martial arts champion, was a bartender. He was at Nova when his friend Inbar Heyman was kidnapped, killed. Her body is currently being kept in Gaza by Hamas. In remembrance of Heyman, he wrote the song "Despite Everything," integrating her final words to him.

"During the initial missile attacks, she told me, 'Okay, Guy, but despite everything, life is beautiful.' Our conversation was abruptly interrupted by the missiles," he said. “I try to incorporate this in my attitude to life. With everything we are going through now, I try to see what there is to be grateful for, what makes me feel good during this time. I feel like we all were forced to look inward and ask questions. Looking inward made me stronger but it is sad that it had to come as it did." 

Guy Ben Shimon's story is a testament to the human spirit's resilience in the face of unimaginable challenges. His journey from survival to healing reflects the transformative power of compassion, connection, and finding light in the darkest of times.

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