Dear Community Member,
As a new member of the Weintraub Israel Center team, it is with great sadness that this has to be my first letter to the community.
Friday evening, October 6, we returned from Shabbat dinner and arrived home. Suddenly, I received a message from one of my friends: “Check the news.” The news showed sirens in the southern part of Israel. It’s terrible to say, but at first, we didn’t get too nervous. Sadly, we’ve been used to non-stop bombing on Israel. We’ have gotten used to “jumping” at any suspicious noise and used to waking up to the sound of sirens.
But after a few minutes, reports of terrorist infiltration to Israel started coming in. The media reports were very confusing; there was a lack of information. Suddenly, videos from WhatsApp started flooding the television channels—videos that citizens sent while they were hiding from terrorists in safe rooms.
The videos, as if taken from a horror movie, showed dozens of heavily armed terrorists with unimaginable amounts of weapons roaming the streets of Israeli cities and Kibbutzim. They ran through the green lawns of kibbutzim, shot at houses, set them on fire, and killed entire families.
For more than 24 hours, people were locked in their homes, crying for help. They called TV stations, sent WhatsApp messages, and wrote on Facebook until some of them stopped writing. Hundreds of terrorists roamed the kibbutzim, preventing security forces from reaching and assisting.
We couldn’t look away. We didn’t eat, didn’t drink, didn’t sleep. Our breath was taken away. Our worst nightmare came true—a surreal dream we never believed could come to life.
I immediately sent a message to my best friend, whose husband serves in the police special forces. I asked about their well-being. She replied that Dror had been called in for duty and that she was going on a short walk with her 7-month-old son. She asked me to stay optimistic. I asked the same of her.
I began to pray.
After exhausting hours of pain and concern we spent in front of the TV and talking to our friends and families, our eyes closed and we fell asleep, finally, at 4 am. Two hours later, my phone rang several times. It was my best friend. “Yuval, I’m not joking” she said. “Dror was killed.”
The worst thing we could ever imagine has happened to us. To our best friend. A wonderful person, kind-hearted and dedicated beyond measure. Dror. He was killed alongside his entire team, facing what turned out to be hundreds of terrorists. He left home without hesitation, in a civilian car, and headed towards the kibbutzim in the south—to save citizens he didn’t even know.
His team did that with limited information about the events, while IDF bases in the south were captured by Hamas. We now know that over a thousand Hamas terrorists entered Israel. He was killed, facing terrorists with his small team, fighting against hundreds of terrorists armed with grenades and missiles.
Unfortunately, this is just one story out of more than 1200 horrific stories of Israelis who got killed. Most of them are civilians.
You must believe me when I say, even if it is too hard to take in—today, in the State of Israel, every citizen knows at least one person who has been murdered or kidnapped into Gaza. Many of us know three or four. Hundreds of families are still waiting for information about their loved ones classified as missing. A whole nation is in mourning.
Almost all kibbutzim in the south were erased. Entire communities. In Kibbutz Bari, over 100 people were killed, including 40 infants. In the north, many citizens have been told to leave their homes, including the family of Nitay, my husband. My parents called me on Wednesday while they were in the safe room. They called to tell me to not worry about them.
I also want you to know how amazing Israelis are. How incredibly resilient and strong we are. During these days, citizens have demonstrated unprecedented unity and immense strength. Many individuals rushed to drive south to rescue the injured and those hiding, waiting for assistance.
Numerous inspiring civic initiatives are emerging providing meals for soldiers, free psychological services, babysitting for children, transporting military equipment, hosting displaced families, and many more.
And yet, all these touching initiatives are happening while the citizens of Israel are in immense pain. There is a lot of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety. My friends tell me that they don’t feel safe anywhere anymore and they haven’t been able to sleep in days.
It’s important to understand the dimensions of this disaster. This is an event unlike any in the history of the State of Israel. There’s no room for a “complex” discussion here. Terrorism is something that must be condemned at any cost. There is no excuse for war crimes and crimes against humanity, for well-planned murder of civilians.
In these difficult moments, Israeli eyes turn outward, to the global Jewish Community, seeking support and assurance that they won’t be left alone. My friends keep sharing videos of rallies for Israel from around the world. This is what gives them hope right now, strengthens their spirits.
When I sent them pictures from the Community Solidarity Gathering for Israel we had here in Tucson, they were so moved, and wanted to thank the entire community.
When we stand together, we remind each other that the Jewish people are the strongest people in history. We rise from the lowest and most painful tragedies thanks to faith, hope, and solidarity.
Please, show your concern for your Jewish and Israeli friends. Ask about their well-being. Hug them. Don’t remain silent.
And with hope, faith and solidarity we will emerge from this disaster, united more than ever.
For thoughtful updates from the Weintraub Israel Center, and ways to get involved, go to their homepage here.