When I left for Israel, I was very excited to have an amazing, worry- free summer at Camp Koby, but I was a little nervous because of the recent kidnappings.
On the second day of camp, my fears suddenly changed. I was no longer afraid of kidnapping. I was scared because a war broke out and a rocket might hit my family, my friends, or
me. I was terrified because I am a 16-year-old American girl who has never experienced war.
I went to my counselors, nervous and crying. They told me we were in the safest place in Israel at the time, because the north was out of range of the Hamas rockets. (Little did I know that missiles would be launched from Lebanese territory.) Those words kept me calm until Saturday night. I was volunteering at a camp in Kibbutz Yechaim in the North for children who lost a relative from terror attacks or other reasons. I had to make sure the campers were having a great time in this hard time.
I was painting my campers’ nails and the siren went off. I was shocked. I ran to the bomb shelter with them. I was not only responsible for myself, but for my campers. When I got into the bomb shelter, it was chaotic. Some kids were crying and screaming; others were laughing and joking. I held in my tears and stayed strong for my campers. I had to tell them that everything was going to be okay, even when I knew as little as they did. One of the kids noticed that I was worried and comforted me, because this was life for her. Some people were singing and cheering. I was praying for the safety of Israel.
For a few moments, I wished to be home in New Jersey. I wanted to be in the safety of my home with my family. Then, I realized if I went back home that would be giving Hamas what they want. They want the Jews out of Israel so I needed to stay. I had to show Hamas that they cannot break me.
This experience really changed me. Reading or watching the news in America is extremely different from actually experiencing the war in Israel. I feel a much greater connection to God and Israel. The siren was a wake-up call for me. It made me realize how important Israel is to me and how we are all one.
The writer is a rising junior at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School.