Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Aftermath of Hamas attack hits close to home for Jewish students with family in Israel

Photo by Margaux Jubin.

Opinions expressed in Beacon Op-Eds are not necessarily shared by the entire staff. It is the responsibility of Opinion editors to elevate each individual’s unique voice. 

Additionally, this story has undergone edits from an advisory board for sensitivity and fact checking purposes. 

“It was very scary to have to worry about people I know personally” 

It was 6:30 a.m. when air-raid sirens sounded in Jerusalem, warning locals of an incoming attack that would become the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. That day, Hamas, a terrorist organization according to the U.S. Bureau of Counterterrorism, unleashed 5,000 rockets into Southern and Central Israel, killing over 1,400 and wounding over 3,000. Following this attack, Israel retaliated, resulting in over 7,000 Palestinian civilian deaths. These losses have left Israel and Palestine steeped in grief and mourning. But the pain extends far beyond the Middle East. 

On Friday night, 5,504 miles away from the tragedy, I geared up for the four-day weekend, completely unaware of the devastation that would unfold by morning. 

Rolling out of bed at 9:30 a.m., I picked up my phone to find notifications from every news app I have. All I saw was, “Israel is Under Attack.” I didn’t dare scroll further.

All I could think of was my Aunt Laurie, Uncle Jonathan, my adult cousins Merav, Nadiv, and Naomi, and my youngest cousins: four innocent children at the tender ages of six, four, two, and 18 months. I quickly snapped out of my trance and called my mom, hoping she had reached our family. 

Thankfully, my mom reached them, and our family was safe, but the relief never set in. She told me that my cousin Nadiv had lost several friends to the attacks and kidnappings. My cousin Merav’s friend, her friend’s husband, and their 1.5-year-old daughter are in critical condition and sedated on ventilators after suffering severe burns while escaping their burning home, which had been set on fire by Hamas. 

Upon hearing this news, I opened my computer, and read, and read, and read.

Horror and heartache washed over me as I sat in front of the screen watching the death toll rise as my heart sank deeper and deeper into my stomach.  

Almost every article displayed disturbing images of the gory destruction at the hands of Hamas. Like many others, the gravity of these barbaric attacks didn’t fully hit me until I saw the photos. 

The woman with the bloodied pants, her dishevelment suggesting she’d been raped, butchered and burnt bodies, the bloody bedsheets in the bedrooms of innocent families who’d been viciously erased, the small body bags with babies inside, and so much more. These graphic images have made it emotionally challenging to stay updated on the latest news about Israel, but I still feel a responsibility to see as much as I can. 

In the shadow of terrorism, I’ve learned that I care about Israel more than I thought. Seeing Israel become threatened made me feel threatened. This week I’ve learned that Israel is more than a country to me, it is so deeply-rooted in my heart and blood; it is family, it is safe, and it is a home. 

Witnessing so much bloodshed, suffering, and destruction in a place so profoundly treasured to me and my family has been quite difficult to grapple with. I’ve called my family more this week than I ever had at college because I felt they were the only ones who understood this devastation as deeply as I did. 

On Wednesday afternoon, I scrolled past an Instagram post about a vigil being held in the common that night, in solidarity and remembrance of the lives lost in Israel. I was on the fence about going, because I didn’t know who to bring. I desperately needed to see people who felt the loss as profoundly as I did, so I went alone. 

While walking up to the large group illuminated by candles, a throbbing lump formed in my throat. Feeling awkward in my solitude, I continued behind the small crowd, looking for the right spot for me to blend into the background. As the guest speakers began, I looked up and saw men in kippahs and people draped with the Israeli flag around their backs. At that moment, my stiff shoulders loosened for the first time that week and I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.

The speakers revealed their own experiences with agonizing concerns about their families in Israel. They spoke passionately about our homeland and what it means to them as an emblem of perseverance and community. Surrounded by other Jews in mourning, I finally let the week of chaos, grief, and sadness run down my cheeks. All this time, I felt so alone, and I kept each mention of the attacks in a casual and matter-of-fact tone, when what I truly felt was hurt. I was hurt at all the times I heard people say posting about Israel was a trend they weren’t taking part in. I was hurt at the harrowing thought of families fearing for their futures. I was hurt for others like me, who’ve felt guilty in their helplessness, isolated in their exhaustion, and obnoxious in their repeated pleas for people to simply care. 

After that night, I knew I wasn’t the only one with the disaster weighing on me. Armed with a new sense of unity, I sought out other Jewish students to connect with amid this troublesome time for our small community. After speaking with Miles Katz, a sophomore VMA student, I learned that the unsettling news affected his ability to focus, too.

“Work is hard to do. I find myself paralyzed. I find myself confused. I find myself with a mix of emotions and a lot of sadness,” Katz said.

Just like me, Katz has family in Israel. After seeing the headlines, Katz contacted his family and was told that his cousin had been hit in the back of the head with shrapnel at the music festival Hamas attacked, but is now safe. 

“He hid in a bathroom for seven hours in a nearby kibbutz,” said Katz. 

A kibbutz is an organized and collectivist community where people voluntarily live and work together. 

Besides checking on his family, Katz didn’t fully comprehend the severity of the attacks.

 “I had no real grasp until Saturday night, and then it really started to hit Sunday night, when the news was really starting to come out,” he says. “It was an emotion I’d never felt before.”

Following attempted conversations about the attacks, Katz says he was met with ignorance from some of his peers, despite the news headlining every mainstream media source. After encountering repeated confusion, Katz quit trying to explain the horrors happening in a place so important to him. It was no longer healthy for him to engage in these discussions, he explained. 

Despite grappling with the disappointment in some of his peers, Katz connected with his Jewish friends who offered understanding and empathy. 

“I’ll talk to my friends who I know will understand what I’m saying, who are also Jewish themselves, and while they don’t have family in Israel, they understand the struggle we’re all going through together,” Katz said. 

Like Katz, community has been especially important to Elias Segal, a sophomore VMA student raised in an Orthodox Jewish community. Segal has both family and friends in Israel. After the news broke, Segal instantly grew uneasy about his loved ones.

“My mind immediately went to my friends in Israel, and if they’re safe. It was very scary to have to worry about people I know personally,” Segal said. 

Segal received eight years of Jewish education and has visited Israel over ten times since he was a kid. To Segal, the country symbolizes community and safety. Since the news broke and photos were released to the public, Segal described feeling horrified seeing innocent people being tortured, burned to death, and raped.

Segal has mostly spoken to his close family and friends about the attacks, and its effects on him. It can be hard to talk about it on a college campus, where opinions may differ greatly.

“The entire situation is a touchy subject in the Emerson community, and it really shouldn’t be,” Segal asserted. “You can have your own opinion on the background of the situation, but in terms of what just occurred, it’s really hard to justify that.” 

“I can’t even watch it or read about it, it’s just disgusting,” Segal added. 

We’re proud to see other college students nationwide initiating rallies and fundraising for humanitarian relief and first responders. Our small community at Emerson embodied this—Jewish students coming together to support not only Israel, but one another.

“Israel is such a powerful symbol in the Jewish community, and when it comes under attack, that’s when people feel the urge to stand up for it,” Segal added.    

The Jewish community is unlike any other; we have the smallest population compared to every major religion and have faced one of the largest genocides in history. Despite this, we continue to rise in the face of adversity. While Jews have seen devastation and atrocity, we’ve also seen triumph and greatness, spanning over three millennia. We still stand together today, rooted in our history, strength, values, and traditions. 

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About the Contributor
Margaux Jubin
Margaux Jubin, Staff Writer
Margaux Jubin is a sophomore journalism major from Los Angeles, California. She is currently a Staff Writer for the Berkeley Beacon. Outside The Beacon, Margaux loves live music, hanging out with friends, and spending time in nature.

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