Commentary: War in Israel, through the eyes of Israeli teenagers

The 46 American and Israeli teens of Yallah Israel! Bus 2 hug before saying goodbye to our Israeli friends for the last time. Leaving Israel this summer was one of the hardest things Ive had to do. Even after only knowing my Israeli friends for one week, nothing upsets me more than seeing their beautiful country being destroyed.
The 46 American and Israeli teens of Yallah Israel! Bus 2 hug before saying goodbye to our Israeli friends for the last time. Leaving Israel this summer was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Even after only knowing my Israeli friends for one week, nothing upsets me more than seeing their beautiful country being destroyed.
Photo credit: Ella Schwartz

Editors’ Note: This article features Israeli teenagers speaking candidly about their experiences and feelings about the Israel-Hamas War and may be upsetting to some readers.

After six drafts, three mental breakdowns and many Jewish Student Union Board meetings, I am finally publishing my first commentary of the school year. 

Each time I sat down to write this piece, I ended up scrapping the drafts because they did not genuinely communicate the devastation I am truly feeling. 

Prior to Head of School Elizabeth English’s recent email, I tried to write about my feelings regarding Archer’s inadequate communication about the war in Israel and the lack of condemnation of Hamas. Still, I deleted it because I was scared of the possible backlash.

Finally, I decided to write about how this war has affected me. This idea was fine, but not ideal. Each time I wrote my feelings down on paper, I felt guilty expressing my pain because I am safe.

I am safe, yet I am writing about my grief while my friends are in Israel, helpless, scared and in danger. Who should care about my opinion when I am writing this piece from the safety of my own home? 

How selfish is it that I am here writing about my pain when my friends in Israel are literally experiencing terrorism?

This past summer, I spent an entire month traveling around Israel. It is, without a doubt, my favorite place on this entire earth. No other country makes me feel the utmost amount of joy and unbreakable love than Israel. It is truly my second home.

There, I met some of the most amazing people who I have not been able to stop thinking about and praying for during these tragic times. I contacted them on WhatsApp to gather their quotes and opinions. I did this because rather than sharing how I feel, I believe it’s more vital to share what Israeli teens are experiencing.

I want to note that I am not blind to the fact that there are innocent Palestinians in Gaza suffering terribly due to this war. It pains me to know that civilians are dying on each side of this conflict. My intent in writing this commentary is strictly to bring readers the perspectives of Israeli teenagers, as they are one of the leading identity groups suffering from this war. I am able to do this for Israelis because I spent time in Israel, not in Gaza or Palestinian territories.

Well, enough talk from me; please read these stories from my beloved Israeli friends about their experiences in the current war.

Noya Linestzki (wearing blue on the right):

Photo provided by Noya Linestzki.

It sounds a little bit weird, but it’s regular for us to hear the sounds of the rocket alarms. Almost every year since I was in first grade, there has been a warfare operation against Gaza. Although it’s really scary to watch the news and hear all the stories about people who were kidnapped and murdered, it’s never happened that terrorists broke into our houses, so everyone is afraid.

The scariest thing for me is my brother was called back to his army base in the middle of Shabbat, and I haven’t heard from him since yesterday because they don’t use their phones.

Also, it feels a bit like the Coronavirus because no one is out and everyone is stressed; even the whole supermarket is empty.

Noa Riesel (in the white shirt second to last on the left): 

Photo provided by Riley Green.

Usually, it is normal for us to wake up in the morning and hear that there are missiles in the south of Israel from Gaza, but on Saturday morning [Oct. 10], it felt like something was different. We quickly realized that there were terrorists who entered into people’s homes, and it was really scary. Immediately, my mother tried to contact our friends who live in one of the kibbutzim near Gaza. We couldn’t reach them until noon, and we felt very scared. A few hours later, they left their home and came to us. When they arrived, I understood that their grandmother had been murdered.

I was so sad to hear that and see the reactions from the children about this news. Everyone knows someone who was murdered or kidnapped. I spend most of my days volunteering to try and manage a normal day, but there is always the fear and pain of those who have lost their family and friends.

Shahar Rotaro (on the far right):

Photo provided by Shahar Rotaro.

The situation between Israel and Gaza has never been good. Since I can remember, there has been at least one terrorist event held by the Palestinians in Israel each month. But I never thought it was possible to reach such a state of inhumanity.

I think that Oct. 10 was the most horrible day that all people in Israel experienced. It all started at six in the morning when Hamas breached the fence that separates Israel from Gaza. They went to a festival where people were celebrating freedom and love and committed the greatest crime I have ever seen in my life. They killed over 260 innocent people from the festival alone and over 1,300 in total. They destroyed entire cities and kidnapped over 200 people. They kidnapped entire families, babies and even Holocaust survivors.

Every person in Israel knows at least one person who has been murdered or kidnapped. Our army reacted, of course, but I know that the [Israeli Defense Force] is the most moral army in the world. I mean, we killed senior Hamas officials, and they killed innocents.

Unfortunately, two of my friends were killed trying to defend our country. A girl from my town was kidnapped, and I don’t even want to imagine what they are doing to her in Gaza right now. They are not human. The whole world needs to know that. I can’t say I’m not afraid because I really am.

We are going through such difficult times, but we are a strong country, and we will win. We must win. All I want is a normal life in the country that I love so much.

Illay Halevy (wearing black on the far right): 

Photo provided by Ella Schwartz

The situation in Israel is a bit complex. One second you think that everything is back to normal, and the next, you’re trying to get to a mamad because of the rockets from the Hamas.

From not knowing if all of my loved ones are okay because I can’t get in contact with them to my friends whom I spend all day with texting me updates from villages near Gaza because they are fighting for the IDF to protect our country, I can’t really know how this situation will end.

The world is trying to stand with Israel, but there are still protests from pro-Palestinians who show Israeli protesters videos of IDF soldiers getting killed. The whole situation is horrific, but you have to look at the bright side — not many Hamas terrorists are entering Israeli territory, and the USA and other countries are trying to help Israel; these are just some of the good things that have happened in the last few days.

Looking at people who live near the Gaza Strip and hearing their stories is honestly heartbreaking and puts things into perspective. Sometimes I think my problems, as someone from the center of Israel, aren’t important, but that isn’t true. No matter where you live, no matter how this war affects you or one of your loved ones, no matter if you’re Jewish and have family in Israel or you’re supporting Israel from the U.S. and seeing the horrific acts of Hamas, you need to speak up.


Thank you to my friends for being vulnerable and sharing your stories. Your perspectives are extensively educating and essential.

To my family in Israel,

I love you and am praying for your safety always.

And to those affected by this war,

We, too, shall prevail. We always do.

Am Yisrael Chai.

עַם יִשְׂרָאֵל חַי

Correction Statement:

(November 24, 2023, 9:24 a.m.): A previous version of this article did not include an editors’ note. The article has been revised to include this editors’ note.

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  • O

    Orit MichielNov 10, 2023 at 11:03 am

    Really beautiful, honest and thought-provoking piece. Well done Ella!

  • J

    Jessica ArthurNov 10, 2023 at 10:42 am

    This is so important to share. Beautifully written, Ella!

  • L

    Liz LutskyNov 9, 2023 at 11:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing these stories, Ella! I am passing this piece on to my friends!!! ❤️ XOXO

  • J

    Jodi HarrisNov 9, 2023 at 3:35 pm

    Amazing job, Ella.

  • L

    LindseyNov 9, 2023 at 12:04 am

    This article is so well written ella!!