My name is Naomi. I’m 21 years old, and currently living in Long Island, New York. Over summer 2023, I participated in the Government, Media, and Social Impact Onward Internship program. Those 7 weeks, and the subsequent week I spent traveling through the country once the program concluded, impacted me greater than anything I could even imagine. I lived in Jerusalem for 7 weeks, shopping at Machine Yehuda for groceries every Shabbat, attending learnings with a local Chabad Rabbi, davening at the Hotel almost every Friday night, and making memories that will carry me until my next trip to the homeland. I feel more connected to Israel than ever before.

For the first week and a half since the terrorist attack carried out by Hamas on Southern Israel, and subsequently the rest of the state, I was in a state of shock. Feelings of panic, physical illness, despair, hopelessness, and more plagued my every moment. I couldn’t sleep properly – what was I missing on my phone while I closed my eyes for 7 hours? I couldn’t eat – hearing the accounts of survivors and seeing the photos of the destruction made me lose my appetite. If I turned notifications on to stop the constant flood of news, I found myself going on my phone as much as I would’ve if I had gotten notifications. I contacted my many friends living in Israel, asking if they were okay, are their families okay. Thank Hashem, all my close friends are okay, but when I see on social media how every Israeli knows someone who’s been kidnapped or murdered, I can’t help but feel sorrow when I recount all the times I have said ברוך דיין האמת in the past 18 or so days, or how many times I’ve offered a shoulder-through-text to lean on during these horrible times. With the subsequent rise in antisemitism, for the first time since I put on my Star of David necklace with the Hebrew word ציון on it, I felt afraid to wear it proudly displayed on my neck.

Naomi Feygin

I worry about my friends who attend colleges where there are not many Jews who understand the pain we all feel as one nation. I attend CUNY Queens, where luckily there are many Jewish students on campus daily, and where there has not been any violence that I know of. I know I cannot speak for everyone on campuses where there have been issues, especially in SUNYs upstate, but I am thankful I don’t have to deal with this on top of the emotional distress.

Naomi Feygin

My time in Israel has made me prouder to be Jewish than I was prior to. I was always a supporter of Zionism and of Israel, but with the rise of antisemitism on the internet, I find myself yearning to do more. I had signed up to volunteer on an IDF base, and hopefully I will be able to go over winter break. I feel like it is still difficult to have conversations about it with those who I am unsure of their stance; how will I know if someone I speak to supports Hamas or supports freeing Palestine from Hamas? It’s an important distinction that I have to address. Regardless, the situation has opened my eyes about just how badly I long to be back in Israel, and I hope to attend University there once I finish up my BA.

I pray every day that the conflict resolves, and that Israelis will no longer have to deal with terrorists as their neighbors, and that Palestinians can live without the yolk of Hamas on their backs daily.

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