The Nation and the World

The Israel-Hamas War affects even those farther from the fighting

My best friend from camp, Mili Reiter, is a 14-year-Israeli who lives a few miles north of Tel Aviv in the city of Herzliya. Herzliya is 64 miles from the Gaza Strip, the same distance between Dana Hall and Springfield, MA. I have been very worried about Mili since the Hamas attacks, but we have been texting and FaceTiming frequently and I was able to do an interview with her on Monday, October 16, and understand what is going on from her perspective. 

On Saturday, October 7, at 6:30 am, Mili was still asleep when the sirens went off. Mili and her family heard these sirens and didn’t think much of them because they are not uncommon to experience in Israel. “It’s quite sad,” she said, “that it is so common for us to hear the sirens.” Because Saturday was Shabbat, no one in her family had their cell phones and therefore didn’t know what was going on. Around 7:00 am, her family learned that Hamas terrorists had gotten into the country as opposed to past threats. “It was scary. There were lots of uncertainties when I heard terrorists had gotten inside of the border. I was honestly in disbelief.” 

Mili’s family decided that day that it would be best for their safety if they left the country. Mili’s grandparents are unable to travel due to health reasons so they stayed in Tel Aviv with Mili’s dad. Mili, her younger brother, and her mom left on a flight to Greece on Sunday, October 8, where they stayed for 10 days. “Everyone was trying to get out. We waited in line for so long at the airport to get on our flight,” she says. 

However, Mili and her family returned home at the end of last week. The Reiter family decided to go home to be with their family and to be there for their country. 

While Mili is not worried for her personal safety at the moment, she has many people that she is worried for. She has a cousin that she is close with who is fighting as an Israeli soldier in the south of the country, but Mili says thankfully she is doing okay. Mili is also worried about people her friends know who were kidnapped at the Supernova Sukkot Gathering, an open air music festival in Re’im.

Mili is not old enough to be in the army, but was excited about getting home to help with her school’s community service. Mili returned home last week and has already participated in some of the community service that her school is offering to help box food, clothing, and other essentials to send to Israeli soldiers that are fighting in the south. She mentioned how these twice-a-week interactions will be nice ways to see classmates and teachers as her school is on zoom until further notice.

Because Mili lives in what she refers to as “the middle of the country”, her neighborhood has been safe so far. Mili and her family returned back home to Israel on Wednesday, October 18, and found everything exactly as it was before. “It’s very peaceful and normal right now,” she mentioned over text this week. Mili and her family believe that they made the right decision going back home because “this may sound dramatic,” she said, “but if we don’t have a country we don’t have anywhere to be. This is my home. I have to be here.”

Photograph source: Mili Reiter

Map source: The New York Times

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