Sports saved my life: Jujitsuka Yarin Shriki’s incredible story of survival from the Nova festival

There have been countless stories that have come out of the Nova Festival that took place on October 7th by the Gaza envelope border when Hamas terrorists indiscriminately murdered, maimed and kidnapped countless innocent party goers on the Black Sabbath that launched the ongoing war. Alongside some of the brutal accounts that took place on Simchat Torah, there were also those of survival, strength and guile that saw many escape the destruction, death and devastation.

One of those stories is that of Yarin Shriki, a world champion Israeli jiu-jitsu practitioner who recently climbed atop the podium at the Paris Grand Prix where he captured the Gold Medal in the -69kg Gi category.

Shriki, who has won numerous medals and is one of the Holy Land’s rising stars was the first Sabra to win a gold medal at the European Championships which he has now done three times while also being crowned Israeli champion four times is a part of the country’s renowned Ayelet Sports Association.

“My only luck was sports. The sport saved my life”

Shriki, who has dedicated his life to jiu-jitsu and has always taken great care of himself. was never one to go out to parties and festivals, however, following a complicated surgery around the area of his head, the 23-year old had been confined to his bed for some time and was unable to get out. His brothers Idan and Sharon wanted Yarin to escape for a bit and get some fresh air along with having a bit of fun, were finally able to convince him to head out with them to the Nova Festival albeit he would travel down to the Geza periphery in his own car in order to leave when he was ready to.

Together with a group of 8 close friends from home, the festival had been going as planned with no issues to even expect that at close to 6:30 in the morning rockets and drones would begin to rain down on the party. With pandemonium breaking out, Shriki who was fit as a fiddle and was not under the influence of alcohol unlike most of the party-goers, realized what was happening and began trying to get his group of friends and brothers focused to understand that they were under attack.

With Yarin as the guide, he made sure that his group didn’t begin to run amok but stay in one place in order to further understand their surroundings and how to best escape and handle the intense situation. His sports training and discipline were able to save their lives because most of the people who had been around them did run and were met by Hamas terrorists.

After a bit of time and their area began to calm down somewhat, the group headed towards their cars but Shriki was able to determine that the terrorists were just waiting for everyone to drive out and right into their trap so a decision was made to just wait once again.

Another solid decision by Shriki as he showed the patience of a true athlete analyzing his options with determination. However, more gunfire towards the parking area forced the brothers and the rest of the group to split up as Yarin decided at this moment under the cover of the massive explosions was the time to start driving which he did through a potato field all the way to Kibbutz Tze’elim roughly 40km away from the party.

Shriki stayed there with only one friend as the others started running for their lives while his brothers were able to jump into their car and drive back to their family home in Netanya due to the calm and patience they showed waiting for just the right moment to escape the carnage and bloodshed. After a number of hours at the kibbutz, Yarin finally was able to get back home at 10pm in the evening where the entire family congregated and cried together as they recounted their escape.

As the days passed by, Shriki kept questioning himself as to why did he survive and others did not. He had gone to the festival with a group of 8 but only 4 came back alive. He repeatedly said that his only luck was sports and that is how he was able to stay alive.

Sports made him who he is and as an athlete he never allowed himself to be influenced by his surroundings. He was quickly able to understand what was happening and acted properly and under pressure.

Shriki returned to training roughly 6 weeks after the massacre as he wanted to get back to competing for the sake of his friends that were murdered and taken hostage. He tried his best to show that he was all business but no doubt there were psychological effects that were still at play.

As he readied himself before each fight, he looked to the sky and spoke to his best friend Yochai who was murdered to give him strength in order to battle to the best of his abilities, which he no doubt did as he came away with the gold medal. Shriki dedicated the championship to Yochai ben Zakaria and the late Osher Simcha Barzilai, z”l as Hatikva was played and the Israeli flag was hoisted high.

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