The War in Israel While Traveling

October 16, 2023
Courtney Saxe

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States

Class of 2023

Read more from this author →

All of my life I have tried to find a connection to my Judaism. Through attending Shabbat services, studying for my Bat Mitzvah, and eventually going to Israel last summer on ILSI. Every prayer has always been a song that I sang, not paying attention to the actual words written in the Siddur. BBYO has been my closest outlet to what my power is as a young Jewish teenager living in America. After being elected as the 79th Anita M. Perlman International N’siah, I knew that I was about to embark on a journey that would allow me to experience different ways of practicing Judaism from all over the world. About three months into community visits, on October 7th at 11 a.m. CT, my perspective completely changed.

I was sitting in a room with friends from North Texas Oklahoma watching a college football game on the TV when I started to realize through social media and news outlets what was happening in Israel. Hamas launched a surprise attack, killing more than 1,200 Israelis and taking an estimated 150 people hostage. I could not in the next 24 hours begin to process or understand what this meant, or what I could do to help. I was in a community, not home with my family, watching social media twist and alter information. One of my first thoughts was to reach out to check on my friends in Israel. And I began to reflect on the fact that the following week, I had a flight to Tel Aviv to meet with teens in Maccabi Tzair along with attending meetings with the JAFI board. Questions raced through my mind as I attended a service in Dallas with other BBYO teens to mourn and pray. Are my friends okay? What can I do to help? When will this end? In the days to follow a war has broken out and at least 2,800 people have died on both sides. I had one more important visit on my schedule and after being in Orlando for an IC site visit, I sat down with my co TJ, Morgan Wittenberg, and Ian Kandel to make an action plan of how we as a BBYO community will raise funds for Israel. I finally headed home for what was supposed to be my Pre-Israel resting and preparation.

At home in Las Vegas, I decided to attend my Synagogue for Shabbat services with my family to try to understand and reflect. For the first time in my entire life, I understood the words in the Siddur. Every prayer for Israel, every moment of compassion, and remembering all made sense. My Rabbi stood for 5 minutes reading out the name of every single Israeli who has been captured by Hamas in Gaza. While every name was said, the congregation was silent. I have never felt so connected to my home country and felt as though I was really truly praying. 

BBYO’s sister movement in Israel, Maccabi Tzair has opened up the Kfar Maccabiah hotel to more than 500 siblings who were victims of the horrific terrorist attacks in Southern Israel. They will be able to accommodate 300 people from the affected areas, 100 family members of injured soldiers and citizens who are hospitalized in nearby Sheba Medical Center, and shelter 200 evacuees. Now as Shabbat ends, the Executive Body is planning to meet on Sunday at 1:30 pm ET to pass legislation to allocate $18,000 towards Maccabi Tzair to help the victims affected. On top of this, we will be launching a global giving day with a set goal for every BBYO community to raise at least $1,000 which will go towards their efforts. In the midst of all that is going on, my hope for the BBYO community is to rise above. Rise above the antisemitic threatening rallies happening around colleges, to continue to post and spread awareness on social media to Jewish and non-Jewish friends, and to support each other. The Jewish community is more connected than ever, and we must use each other to spread love and peace. There is no telling when this war will end, and the members of BBYO need to promote tolerance and contribute to this important effort. I am a proud Jew and will continue to pray for those fighting to keep Israel safe. 

A Prayer for the State of Israel:

Courtney Saxe is a BBG from Mountain Region is serving as the 79th Anita M. Perlman International N'siah.

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