Life has changed
Shaya Bernstein, center, with her classmates, from left,  Yali, a Canadian, and Michal, a German, on their last fieldtrip together before the Oct. 7, 2023 attack by Hamas

By Shaya Bernstein

On the Wednesday before Simchat Torah I went on a trip organized by my boarding school and afterward, I and all my friends went back to our homes for the last weekend of Sukkot break. We said a quick goodbye thinking that three days later we would be back in school together. Little did we know, that was far from the reality that we’re facing now.

Flash forward three days; it’s now Saturday, Simchat Torah. I have my bag packed, ready to go back to school at the end of the evening, but Hamas has other plans. As someone living in Israel, hearing all of the awful things that have happened over the past few weeks was heartwrenching. Hearing that hundreds of innocent people were kidnapped and taken into Gaza including a 7-month-old baby torn from his dead mother’s arms; hearing that thousands of people were murdered, injured, abused and raped and the dead naked bodies of teenage girls, girls my age, were paraded around Gaza as a symbol of victory and success — my entire world was flipped upside down in one day.

After Oct. 7, my days started looking very similar to one another. Wake up late, scroll on social media for an hour in bed and watch video after video, each one more disturbing than the last, then finally motivating myself to get out of bed and go downstairs to just watch more news, occasionally taking a few moments to shed some tears, then going to bed very late while scrolling on Instagram some more. Every day was basically copy/paste like that for about a week until Zoom got added to my daily schedule too. So now, more than two weeks later, my days are very similar to how they were in the beginning, with an added couple of hours of Zoom school each day. I personally was not a fan of Zoom during
COVID-19 times but this is a different level. COVID-19 was a very hard time for us all and it was hard to adjust to the new concept of Zoom; but now, to have Zoom, not because there is a global pandemic, but because it’s not physically safe for me to be in my school just in case of terrorists or rockets, is a mental weight I can’t explain.

I try to help my country and the soldiers as much as I can and I want to help, but there’s only so many cookies and challot that I can help bake and that sadly doesn’t take up 12 hours of my day, so I’m left to watch and read more news. I’m not even gonna lie — it sucks. It really, really sucks. It sucks to not be able to help your country as much as you would like in these times, but it also sucks to have nothing in your life the same way as it was just two weeks ago.

I’m so blessed to still have such amazing friends from Dallas who have reached out to me over the past few weeks to make sure I’m okay physically and emotionally, which thankfully I am, but it’s impossible to explain the fact that I have no way to avoid all of this and everything going on. I’ve been so pleased to see so many people from the Dallas community posting stuff to spread awareness about the horrors and atrocities that have gone on in Israel and I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to be here in Israel right now, seeing everything firsthand. But, it is a little hard to know that they get to just go and live their life while they post these things; whereas, the stuff they are posting about is my life. I’m not saying it’s something that anybody in Dallas or outside of Israel should feel bad for; I just want everybody to know not to take their everyday life for granted. In fact, y’all should be celebrating the fact that you’re able to live your life. Y’all should celebrate the fact that you can freely walk on the street as Jews because that is directly punching Hamas in the face.

One thing that I found fascinating over this time is to see how high the morale is of all of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers right now. They all say the number one thing Israel needs right now is to keep good and positive spirits. So yeah, LIVE YOUR LIFE AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE, for your sake, for my sake and for all of the Jews and Israelis out there that don’t have the opportunity to live their normal life right now. We need to keep our energy high because as a Jewish nation we are strong and we are powerful. Hamas thinks that they can tear us down but they are so wrong; we are stronger than they are. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces), including my brother-in-law Avi, is currently working so hard to keep everyone in Israel safe and to keep our country alive so one day hopefully in the near future we all have the ability to live our normal life as Jews, as Israelis and as a united nation. Am Yisrael Chai!

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  1. Brooks Alkek

    Thanks for your passionate sentiments, Shaya. It is a blessing to read. I pray Avi and the IDF can successfully punch Hamas in the face for real!

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