April 19, 2024
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Amudim Students Embrace Resilience

Gap-year students in Israel have found their year shaken by unexpected challenges amid unjustifiable terror attacks from Hamas agents in the Gaza Strip. However, in these trying times, many students have found a profound sense of commitment and pride for their people. Four students at Amudim have chosen to share their experience with The Jewish Link readers. May their stories be an inspiration and a reassurance to us all that “Am Yisrael Chai.”

For everyone in Israel, Shabbat morning began with a sudden, alarming sound—a pulsing air raid siren. “I woke up at 7:30 and heard a weird blaring sound,” Miram Breau of Englewood recounted. “I knew it sounded like an air raid siren from movies.” Uncertain about its significance, the students split off to various shuls, where one of them planned to say Yizkor. Unfortunately, the shul was locked when they arrived, and they were told to say Yizkor at home per the IDF’s instructions. On their way back, another siren started; Amudim students Gabi Kronenberg of New York City and Leah Fischer of East Brunswick witnessed the incredible sense of community in Israel as they sheltered with a family for the duration of the alarm.

Miriam and her roommate, Eliana Birman of Teaneck, described that on their way to shul another siren sounded. They followed a man running with his tallit bag into a small Sefardi shul, where they learned about the rocket attacks from Gaza. “I was scared, but I had no idea what was actually going on,” Eliana related. “The situation got much scarier once I heard the full story after yuntif.”

The students spent the remainder of Shabbat together in a shul with the other students, bogrot, and madrichot in the Midrasha. There, they did joint tefillah and hakafot and had lunch together, as enough food for 150 people had already been prepared and many families found themselves unable to attend. The air was tense, as “information those first few hours was word of mouth and rumors.” Like many students, Gabi knew she was OK, and was most scared about her family back in the States “finding out and not being able to reach me until chag was over for them.”

Yet, amidst the fear and anxiety, many students found comfort with their friends and community. At seuda shlishit the entire seminary sang Acheinu together, read misheberach, and then made Havdalah together. It was then that students were fully made aware of the gravity of the situation. Amudim wanted the students to hear everything from the madrichot and administration, and be comforted, before returning to their apartments and seeing terrifying news and images on their phones, explained Leah.

Undaunted, these four students affirm their commitment to remain in Israel right now, unwilling to let terrorism scare them off from having an impactful year. “I can’t imagine leaving; I love it here and consider it a home already,” Miriam explained. Eliana has faith in the IDF and the Iron Dome, telling us that she is safe in Yerushalayim right now, and unless told otherwise, is “staying here and waiting to see what happens.” Leah wants everyone abroad to know that she is “not in immediate danger. I came here for a year and I’m going to stay for a year.” Gabi is committed to staying with the Jewish people, and doing her best “to support the IDF and victims of the war in whichever way I can.”

Adding to the students’ feelings of safety, Amudim has decided to host classes in the two apartments, using the seminary’s small class sizes to its advantage. Since everyone can fit into one apartment, classes are held there, minimizing the risk of students being caught outside during a siren.

The students would like to stress that they are safe, and they each have a message they would like to share with their friends, family and fellow members of klal Yisrael abroad.

Miriam Breau: Don’t jump to harmful conclusions. People outside Israel should not catastrophize what is happening. Bombs are not constantly falling in the streets. Thanks to the bravery of the IDF soldiers and the reservists who have been called up, for many Israelis life is continuing relatively as normal. Instead of panicking, the best thing people can do is find ways to help.

Leah Fischer: Everyone should take a second and step back from the large, scary numbers of casualties and wounded to take a look at the individual story. Yes, there have been so many horrible stories coming out, but we shouldn’t lose track of the fact that everyone getting hurt is a real human being. We also shouldn’t be distracted by the large number of IDF soldiers being called up; we should make sure to think about the fact that every single one of them is someone who is leaving their life behind to fight and protect us.

Gabi Kronenberg: I’m going to take things day by day. Right now things go by slowly, but I remind myself that being away from action is good. I’m trying to spend my time speaking with family and doing hobbies like drawing and painting. Not spending time worrying about things I can’t control. I’m determined to have a good year.

Eliana Birman: This is an incredibly scary time, trust me I know. But Israel has made it through many wars before. The Jewish people have survived so much. We will survive this. With tefillah, with tzedaka and with a little bit of love, we can make it through together. Am Yisrael Chai.

As they continue their gap year in Israel, they remain resolute in their determination. They came to Israel for a reason, and nothing is going to stop that. Their experiences serve as a testament to the enduring spirit of those who choose to stand with Israel during challenging times.

Miriam’s Zionism has been bolstered, as she questions how anyone can think Israel is in the wrong. “Nothing justifies what has been done to innocent Israeli civilians.”

Inspired by the resilience of the Israeli people and the international outcry of support, these students remain hopeful that the IDF will secure Gaza, rescue the hostages, and signal a new era in Israel security and recognition on the world stage.


Sam Savetsky, of Bergenfield is a shana bet student currently studying at Migdal HaTorah in Modi’in.

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