By Rachel Avraham
On October 7, 2023, I was sitting with my children in Nahariya, enjoying the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. We went there after enjoying a five-day holiday in Eilat. We were in good spirits and could not imagine that anything could go wrong. We were dreaming of going home after the holiday, and letting our kids go back to their routine of school and extra-curricular activities. Then, all of a sudden, my late husband’s brother burst into the home where we were staying to tell us that Israel was at war. On that horrific day, which for Israelis has many parallels to September 11 for Americans, Hamas invaded on 22 fronts in Israel by land, air and sea.
They massacred innocent youngsters at a music festival, burned people living in border communities alive in their homes, decapitated babies, and countless women were raped. They were even heartless enough to break into kindergartens and to stain teddy bears with the blood of slaughtered babies. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, some 5,312 Israelis have been wounded, and over 240 are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Israeli forensic experts have already confirmed that Hamas is guilty of rape, torture and other crimes against humanity for the events of October 7.
Around this period of time, I did not fully grasp where the safest place to be was. I read online that there was a rocket siren sounded in Netanya, so I decided not to return home, except to go home to pack some stuff and bring my animals up north. One should remember that I was staying in a shomer Shabbat home, so I did not have access to a TV. The only news I had was what came to my phone. On that fateful day, just as I arrived in Netanya by train, I found out that train access would be limited from that point on due to the war. I found a city where the main shuk (market) closed and the streets were virtually empty.
The taxi driver complained that there were many shortages in the stores in Netanya, with it being a struggle to find bottled water and meat for sale. However, at that point in the war, there were no shortages in stores in Nahariya. Later, I learned that the rocket landed in Kfar Yonah near Netanya, but not in Netanya itself. Nevertheless, Yedioth Achronot newspaper reported that all of Israel between Dimona and Netanya was in rocket range, so I decided to stay as far away from Gaza as possible.
I was in Nahariya for about a week, until rockets also started to be fired from Lebanon. The bomb siren in Nahariya devastated my rabbits, who refused to eat for three days after that. After that, I realized that it was not such a wise idea to stay up north, even though the kids were out of school and I got free baby-sitting assistance from my family in Nahariya. However, living in Netanya required that I pay $2,000 per month to hire three nannies to work in my home in order to make it through the war. After all, zoom classes are not the same as school, as they do not really give me the freedom to do my journalistic work. Anyway, the children are sick of zoom classes by now, so it is hard to get them to sign in . This means that I must entertain the kids!
In this horrible situation, I wanted to return to the United States, so that the kids could at least go back to school there and live a normal life until the end of the war, but the US government was only willing to give me a loan to go to Cyprus or Greece or Germany, depending on flight availability. They even refused to give a loan for me and my kids to go back to America to be with my parents in Portland, Oregon. In addition to all that, the kids’ American passports had not arrived in the mail yet (their arrival was delayed because of the war), so until the visa requirement was lifted for Israelis, I would have had to go to a rocket-affected area just to pick them up and I was not going to do that, I just wasn’t.
Considering that this was the situation, I decided to just stay put, as Netanya and Modi‘in are like the only cities in Israel right now that are not facing a constant barrage of rocket fire. Indeed, it is dangerous to travel outside of the city, even to go to the airport, which is also in an area under rocket fire.
Life here is also not normal. The banks are not fully operational, there are still shortages in the stores, the schools are closed, no one is going to restaurants or extracurricular activities anymore. The only pleasant activity my kids enjoy is going to friends’ houses, going over to see relatives, visiting the grocery store, and playing and watching movies at home. Even the renovation of the park near the home was halted due to the war and now the park nearby looks ugly.
When I am not busy with my work and my kids, I just want to cry over what happened to our beautiful country. I have a friend who was expelled from her home by the IDF because there was too much intensive fire coming from Lebanon. It was her dream to live in a private home on a kibbutz full of animals in Rosh Ha-Nikra. Now with the intensive rocket fire from Lebanon, that dream has turned into a nightmare and she is presently living as a refugee in Switzerland, together with her husband and four children.
I have another friend who is from Bat Yam and pregnant. Once, there was a terrible bomb siren when she was on the way to one of her pregnancy doctors, but because they were driving, they could not make it to a bomb shelter. So, her husband protected her and the unborn baby from the incoming missile. Everyone survived but my friend said she could not take it anymore and left. She is now an internally displaced refugee in Netanya, while her husband is away fighting against Hamas. She is very worried about what will happen to him as he travels to many dangerous areas.
I have a brother-in-law whose job is to activate the Iron Dome batteries that protect Israel against rocket fire. He travels to dangerous areas, leaving his six-month-old baby with relatives. We worry constantly when he travels to the South. I have another friend whose son is fighting in the Israel Defense Forces against Hamas. He struggles to sleep at night as he is worried about what will happen to his son when he goes to many dangerous areas. And I have another friend who is presently hosting an entire family from Ashkelon, who fled the intense rocket fire there.
This is the times that we live in. This is our reality. I pray for peace because such terror of the magnitude that we are experiencing simply breaks the human heart. Yet sadly, Hamas won’t let us enjoy peace till there is a regime change in Gaza. It is unfortunate, but this is the reality. If they slaughter Israeli Arabs just as brutally as they massacre Jews and throw poor Gazan men into mass graves for the crime of wanting to flee to safety, then there is little hope that Hamas will seek anything but the death and destruction of Israel. October 7 proved that they are not much better than ISIS. The world should help Israel end the Hamas terror organization once and for all, just as they stood united against ISIS terror in Iraq and Syria.
Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working for the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, which is run by Mendi Safadi, a former Likud Candidate for the Knesset and a former chief of staff of former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara. Since 2012, she has been working as an Israel-based journalist and writer, for the Daily Wire, the Christian Post, the Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Ahval and many other publications across the globe. She received her MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She got her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College