Reflecting on My Summer in Israel After October 7

November 3, 2023
Heather Feuerstein

Potomac, Maryland, United States

Class of 2025

Read more from this author →

Just over three months ago, I visited Israel during a time of peace. I am endlessly grateful I was able to experience its beauty and splendor before the tragic and sudden attacks by Hamas on October 7th. For a week or so, it was incredibly hard to grasp how such a beautiful place could experience such horrific things. I had made friends in Israel and met so many kind people. Knowing that my friends had to hide in shelters and escape the cities in which they lived scared me to the core. 

During my trip, I visited Netiv Ha’Asara, a beautiful town of 900 people located directly next to the border with Gaza. There, I participated in Path for Peace, learning about life on the Gaza Border. The town is built so that residents are able to run into bomb shelters within 5 seconds. When the sirens alarm for Hamas rockets being fired, those residing in Netiv Ha’Asara have 5 seconds before impact. Multiple buildings were constructed to withstand or at least lessen the impact of rockets. This was especially the case with the kindergarten, covered in a layer of metal on the top to slow the rocket’s velocity and, therefore, lighten the impact to minimize deaths. Nobody should have to live in this kind of constant fear, especially not in such a beautiful town with a tight-knit community. To wrap up the experience, we each wrote a note on the back of a ceramic tile with a colored design, then drove over to the inner wall of the border. We were greeted by a mural spanning hundreds of feet, with tens of thousands of tiles covering it. The wall preached peace and love, and so did the note I placed on the back of my tile. Placing my tile on the wall was synonymous with a prayer for hope. 

The hope soon faded as the events unfolded on October 7th. I was made aware that Netiv Ha’Asara had been destroyed, with 20 residents killed and many severely wounded. I thought back to my experience at the mural on the border and how Hamas likely viewed the mural as they completely tore down the border wall, ignoring its existence and going against everything it promoted. I thought about the town and the residents and how they must have fled to the shelters, only for some to have met face-to-face with terrorists. I thought about, most importantly, how one could possibly be so cold-hearted to murder innocent people. 

If I had not been to Israel this summer, I would likely have been more detached from the conflict. A large chunk of my heart beats for Israel, and it has hurt more than words can express. Every day, I look back at the pictures of my trip and often cry when I realize how much I miss the beautiful country I can call home without even being a citizen. To know how hard my ancestors fought for the existence of a single Jewish state in our ancestral homeland and how hard the Jewish people today continue to fight for its existence makes it all the more special. Now more than ever, I will not be afraid to say Am Yisrael Chai.

Heather Feuerstein is a BBG from Ahavah BBG #2289 of NRE: DC Council and she loves leadership and advocacy!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

Explore More Stories

Get The Shofar blasted to your inbox