Many local families were in Israel, most of them celebrating Sukkot with their families, when Hamas began its butchery on October 7. Here, two of them tell their stories.
Ruby and Bobby Kaplan of Teaneck were on one of their annual trips to Israel when the attack happened. Here are excerpts from Ruby’s description of their stay.
“As expected, departing for the Holy Land for our yearly trip for the Yomim Noraim to again share with our Israeli grandchildren for the Chagim, is always in our planning and has become a staple of our life’s routine. All went smoothly at the airport, thank goodness no more Covid testing or needed paperwork confirmations and drudgery, and we’re in. Extra suitcases were schlepped willingly to distribute American products the grandchildren requested with our joy of witnessing their smiling faces and well worth all of the efforts that it took to get there.
The flight was accompanied with passengers sharing the same goals with exuberance and excitement. Life couldn’t be better, and we felt fortunate returning once again to Eretz Yisrael.
“Each day was filled with joy, spirituality and aching feet while enjoying life to the fullest in appreciation of what Hashem offers. Concerts were plentiful during Chol Hamoed whether in Jerusalem or the local streets of Ramat Beit Shemesh with all neighborhoods ablaze with music, song and spirituality for the Chag. Succoth hopping was part of the venue, and all over pop-up Succahs were easily accessible to partake of the Mitzvah in the Holy Land. Israel was truly infused with the intense Yom Tov spirit throughout.
“The turn of events happened so suddenly. The last day on Simchat Torah 5784, we abruptly woke up to constant booms and jets flying overhead. At first, we were delusional and decided it was the sound of thunder until the realization set in. Then the sirens started wailing, and that morning we had to run to the Mamad room in our son’s house 7xs for insulation and protection. We truly were sharing with our family the very routine and experience they have to endure during sporadic times of threat and terror.
“Media reports compare the attack to the Yom Kippur war of 1973 whereby PM Golda Meir was also caught off guard over 50 years ago. However, Israelis are saying there is no comparison since it was a war fought among the armies and not a civilian barbarous attack on the streets. Therefore, some people further compare it to the destruction and tragedy of the second Beis Hamikdash.
“The morning we heard constant jets flying overhead with loud threatening booms, instead of going to get breakfast as we usually do, we scurried to the ‘safe’ room ‘Bomb shelter’ in reaction to sirens to run for safety within 2 minutes time. As in most homes, a specific bedroom in my son’s house is allocated with metal walls for situations like these while used as a regular bedroom year round as most Israelis have within their dwelling. Other sources of safety are noted as a stair-well or a Mamad community room if a unit does not have one within its living space. We knew that morning that life had instantly changed and terror was lurking within our midst from the enemy.
“Hamas’s evil perpetrated on civilians, children and babies knows no bounds. The outright slaughter of our people is horrific, barbaric and rampant. We all know 18-year-old Israeli soldiers being called in to serve their country selflessly.
“We were fortunate to attend the Mischel wedding right before Succoth in Israel. Only ten days later, the Chattan was called to duty leaving only 10 days left for their honeymoon. Both sisters married only within a year, had to part from their betrothed as duty called. Another friend’s grandchild, a Commander, called to Gaza who gave his bulletproof vest to his troop member was left without one until others become available. Daily funerals of innocent victims and soldiers are ongoing and heartbreaking.
“Mundane life as we know it is at a standstill with many stores closing, school not in session and grocery stores’ supplies and food diminishing. We left Israel this time much later than originally planned. Realizing that other airlines were rapidly canceling on short notice, we focused our efforts on El Al. We finally did reserve a flight through Prague with two other stop-overs in Frankfurt. It was a 38-hour journey to get home with strong mixed feelings and overwhelming concerns. Our grandchildren asked us to stay even longer but they understand our dilemma. Although responsibilities beckon, we were remorseful with doubt and strong emotions on our return.
“There are so many stories that are heart wrenching. We pray for Israel, the soldiers and for the senseless killing of our people to stop.”
Rachelle Weisberger, and her husband, Josh, who live in Englewood, went to Israel for Sukkot. It’s an annual trip that they’ve made for several decades. This year, they visited her sister, Dr. Yolande Weiss, and her brother-in-law, Rabbi Abner Weiss, who made aliyah from Los Angeles in February. The Weisbergers returned home on October 19.
“My husband and I are presently in Jerusalem, Israel, a witness to the worst nightmare one could imagine,” she wrote on October 18. “Tomorrow evening, we return home. To see images of such unspeakable savagery has left us heartbroken. And yet, to see Israelis come together to help each other during these tragic times is indeed inspirational.
“Today we went shopping for children’s clothes for the displaced people who lost everything. Chabad was organizing a clothing drive and meals for these Israelis. Volunteers are ready to do whatever is needed.
“We feel we were fortunate to help in a small way.
“We pray all the captives will be returned to safety and Israel will be victorious. Am Yisroel Chai.”