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The Aftermath

Katie Pollok shares her thoughts on the devastating situation in Israel, and how she learned about the realities of the hardship on the Kedma Campaign.



On October 7th, 2023, time stopped for the people of Israel and for Jewish people around the world. Simchat Torah, which is supposed to be a day of celebration, became the deadliest single day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

 

Over the few days spent in Israel, I heard tragic testimonies of the atrocities of October 7th and how it has affected soldiers and civilians alike. Six months later, there are still 134 hostages being held in Gaza. These innocent civilians are being treated shockingly by Hamas, forced to endure horrific conditions. However, they are not the only ones suffering. Their families are feeling a level of helplessness that is truly incomprehensible. Some of these hostages were taken from the Nova Festival, which was attacked on October 7th. Having heard stories of the attack from survivors of the festival and their friends and family, I can conclude that no single story is the same. Everybody affected continues to suffer unimaginable pain. Hundreds were murdered at one festival. A festival of peace. Where is the humanity? 

 

It was not just the attendees of Nova festival that suffered. That was part of a much wider scale attack. Kibbutzim in the South of Israel were invaded by Hamas terrorists. People were killed in their own homes. Their own beds. Again, where is the humanity? Many lives were uprooted. People were forced out of their homes and cannot return as they have been destroyed. Thousands of lives were lost. Many people have returned to the army to defend Israel, putting their lives at risk every day because doing nothing seems to be just as dangerous.

 

Upon visiting the Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, I learnt the harrowing stories of so many hostages and deceased. The biggest shock was the lack of support that the families of hostages receive from the government. Not one government official has even bothered to visit Hostage Square.

 

During this trip, we spoke to some soldiers, one of whom is named Elisha, who is currently in a rehabilitation hospital. Elisha’s story is horrific yet inspiring. He lost both of his legs in an ambush and was unconscious for several months, however he sat before us expressing such joy to be alive. He left us with the powerful message to be appreciative of even the little things, like being able to eat and drink without assistance. You don’t realise how fragile your life truly is until you nearly lose it. Elisha’s doctors were convinced that he was going to die, yet he is alive and continues to empower others by sharing his story. This is not simply a story though; this is reality for so many Israelis. 

 

One of the most meaningful moments of the trip was running an arts and crafts session for children whose families were evacuated from their homes in the North and South of Israel. One mother told us that her family has been living in this hotel in Tel Aviv for months, with no kitchen and hardly any belongings. A child asked us if he could take a piece of coloured card to use as a carpet, because they don’t have one. I only spent an hour with these children, and although I did very little to help them, it made such a difference to their lives. We brought them joy, however brief it may have been.

 

On our final morning, we packaged fruit at Leket food bank. In just two short hours, we managed to package 1600 pounds worth of lemons and clementines, helping 380 families. This was a perfect way to end the trip - giving back. It was bittersweet to leave, knowing that there is so much more that we could be doing to help. 

 

These are not just stories. They are real people. We must do everything in our power to remember that. 

Katie Pollok

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