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  • Hillels of Georgia

It Could Have Been Us, What the Attack on Oct. 7 Means

Gabriela Lefkovits, UGA '25

As the fall semester draws to a close, it’s only right to reflect on how my semester began. I’ve been wanting to write an article like this for a while, but the words got stuck in my head. I was engulfed in pain. 

Yesterday marked two months since Oct. 7. Now, I am finally ready to share my story.

In August, I attended a trip funded by the Maccabee Task Force called Fact Finders. The aim of the trip was to find the truth surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by seeing firsthand the Israeli and Palestinian narratives. We heard from speakers on both sides, traveled to areas in the West Bank, saw the Gaza border and learned of the various threats facing Israel from its neighbors.

I will admit — I identify as a proud Zionist. Zionism refers to the right of Jewish people to have a sovereign state in their ancestral and indigenous homeland. 

The word “Zionist” usually angers people from the start but that is the most accurate description of my beliefs. In the media today and on campus, you might hear people say Zionism equates to racism or even Nazism. It isn’t racist to think the Jewish people deserve the right to self-determination in the one place that has maintained Jewish presence throughout history.

However, most peers on this trip did not label themselves as Zionists. While this challenged me deeply, I knew it was still important to see the reality of life on the ground.  

Though I grew up with a robust education on Israel’s history and the politics of the only modern Jewish state, I understood the importance of hearing perspectives from those that live in Bethlehem, Ramallah, alongside Gaza and in Northern Israel on the Syrian and Lebanese borders, all of which provides insights that textbook education cannot provide. 

On Aug. 10, I went to Kibbutz Kfar Aza with my eighteen other peers. One community member, Chen Kotler, explained what it was like living so close to the Gaza border. There are multiple rocket barrages from Gaza each year, which is so frequent that bomb shelters are built every couple hundred feet. Residents in Kfar Aza only have 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter when sirens go off, signifying an incoming rocket. Imagine how disruptive that must be to hear multiple times a day. 

Despite living under a constant terror threat, Kotler only spoke of peace. She believes there is a Palestinian mother, just like her, living a mile down the road in Gaza also wishing for peace.

Even though I could go on for pages about all the events from this trip, I want to focus on one aspect in this article: October 7, when Kfar Aza residents were murdered in the most brutal and barbaric ways by Hamas terrorists.

On Oct. 10, exactly two months after my visit, I learned that Hamas decapitated 40 infants, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Each of these infants my Fact Finders group might have waved to on Aug. 10. These precious civilian lives, ended in the cruelest ways, broke my heart.

Similar stories followed from other kibbutzim such as sexual violence and rape against women as well as the kidnapping of children and the elderly. Rescue workers described grisly images of children who were burned alive and corpses lying everywhere. This was a war on civilians started by terrorists. 

There is one eerie and terrifying thought that plagues me to this day: It could’ve been us. On Oct. 7, it took the Israeli military hours to hear of the invasion and respond. This is in part due to the fact that some soldiers stationed near the border were either killed or kidnapped. It could have been us, those who joined me on Fact Finders. 

I was with members of College Republicans, Young Democrats, Model United Nations and Greek life. It could have been us. What if we were the ones that had been killed or kidnapped and taken into Gaza? If it were us, would students on our campus still demand a unilateral ceasefire without any mention of the hostages? Would students continue to tear down kidnapped posters of us and call it Israeli propaganda? If we were held underground and on the verge of starvation, surrounded by child rapists and murderers, would you still mock our friends for their tears? Would you interrupt their tributes to our life?

There is life before and after Oct. 7 for many Jewish people. Not only was it the bloodiest day in Israel’s history but antisemitism has spiked 388% since then, according to early estimates by the Anti-Defamation League. College campuses have been especially hostile, with threats against Jewish students at Cornell University such as “raping every Zionist pig woman” to arson being committed on a Jewish student’s dorm room at Drexel University to an assault by protesters on a Jewish student at Tulane University, causing his nose to be broken.

To those on our very own campus, a UGA student was arrested for assault and battery while calling a Jewish UGA student a “stupid Israeli fuck” on Oct. 20, according to a police report.

What many Americans, especially college students, fail to consider is that Israel is not a western country. It’s not surrounded by western neighbors. Israel has adopted western values, much to the dismay of these neighbors who prefer to govern through extremist sharia law. It is naive and ignorant to believe what works for America will work in the Middle East.

Never again is now. During this unprecedented attack on the Jewish community, both in Israel and on our American college campuses, it’s important to research all facts before sharing them on social media. Do not be complicit in the spread of misinformation.

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