The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Lafayette reflects on those caught in crossfire of Israel-Hamas war

The last two weeks have seen destruction in both Israel and Gaza. (Photo by Fatima Shbair for the Associated Press)

About 5,700 miles away, a war between Israel and Hamas has put millions of civilians in the line of fire. But despite that distance, the war hits especially close to home for some people on campus.

“As soon as I found out, I texted all my friends,” Hayley Katz ‘25, who has connections to Israel, said. “I’ve met a lot of people who live there throughout the years.”

Katz said that her friend’s father died in the fighting while some of her friends, because of Israel’s mandatory military service, are being deployed to fight Hamas. A young woman she worked with over the summer has had to hide in a storage closet after rockets fell outside of her home.

“They’re just so scared right now,” Katz said. “Everyone knows someone who has been killed or taken and it’s really scary because there’s not a lot that’s different [between] me and them.”

More Israelis and Palestinians, in large part civilians, have been killed in fighting in the last two weeks than in the past eight years combined, according to data compiled by the New York Times. The head of the United Nations Human Rights Office warned of war crimes and human rights violations by Israel while Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza, has been accused by experts of committing crimes against humanity in its civilian killing and abduction spree on Oct. 7.

Among the dead and missing are citizens of 43 countries; at least 40 of those killed or kidnapped are said to be Americans. Hamas has promised to execute hostages each time Israel strikes Gaza without warning. In response, Israel has pledged to choke off all supplies to Gaza — including food, water and fuel — until its hostages are freed.

The border Israel partially controls between Egypt and Gaza was completely shut off until President Joe Biden pressured Israel to open it Wednesday. Civilians are still trapped in Gaza while limited humanitarian aid trickles in from Egypt.

“It’s hard feeling guilty that I’m here and I’m able to go to school and do my classes and everything [while] the whole world is stopped there,” Katz said.

One student, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of Islamophobia being directed at him, has extended family trapped in Gaza.

“They were just visiting their homeland as anybody should have the right to do,” the student said of his family member in Palestine.

But despite his relative being caught up in the conflict, and all of the blame being thrown around regarding its causes, it is the broad human impact that the student insisted matters the most in discussing the war.

“When we look at these labels that usually cover the issues that we’re looking at, you lose sight of the humanity,” the student said. “When an Israeli child is killed [or] when a Palestinian is killed, either way, I’m upset and I’m crying for the loss.”

Reni Mokrii ‘25, whose mother is Jewish, has grown close to Israel over the years. Originally from Russia, she and her family believed Israel to be safer due to political persecution back home. Her older brother is now an Israeli citizen living in Tel Aviv and her parents are applying for Israeli citizenship.

Mokrii’s parents are safe – they have been in Russia for some time due to medical reasons – but Mokrii counts among the dead at least six people that she knew personally.

“Two of them were my friends during the time I was [living] there,” Mokrii, who spent several days last week in the Counseling Center instead of classes, said. “One [was] my closest friend’s brother and one guy actually went to the same Hebrew school [as me] in Moscow and came to Israel because of the Russo-Ukrainian War.”

The ongoing war in Ukraine caused some Ukrainian Jews to flee to Israel. Because land is cheap there, many found refuge in Israel’s southern border towns, the same towns attacked by Hamas.

Mokrii is half-Ukrainian, and some of her loved ones were trapped in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, at the outset of the war with Russia. She again finds herself with family in harm’s way, this time in Israel.

“My brother had his birthday [last] Wednesday,” Mokrii said. “On his birthday he had to sit in the bomb shelter for twelve hours.”

Ilan Peleg, an Israeli-American government and law professor, wrote in an email that the war has reached him as well.

“Many members of my family are under attack,” Peleg wrote. “Several personal friends or professional colleagues have paid the ultimate price for the war.”

Among those close to Peleg who were killed was Hayim Katzman, a scholar who Peleg said was “totally dedicated to peace.” Katzman, who was in Israel conducting research, reportedly sacrificed himself to save his neighbor.

“[He] submitted a wonderful article to a book that I am editing,” Peleg wrote. “I decided to dedicate the book to his memory.” 

Peleg wrote that another colleague of his lost his daughter and son-in-law as they sacrificed themselves to save their 16-year-old son while a third was kidnapped along with her family.

“Violent assault does not help in the resolution of any long-term, serious and complex conflict; it invariably escalates it,” Peleg wrote.

Several students with connections to the conflict either declined to comment or requested anonymity due to increased Islamophobia and antisemitism in the wake of the war. A six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death earlier this week in Chicago in what is being investigated as a hate crime, for example, while a German synagogue was attacked with Molotov cocktails on Wednesday.

“It is important that when people are trying to make conversations about this [or] post something, they should remember that for some of us in this community, it is not a political issue,” Mokrii said. “It’s a really personal family issue and people should be careful about this.”

Selma O’Malley ’26 contributed reporting.

View Comments (3)
About the Contributor
Trebor Maitin, Managing Editor
Pennsylvania enthusiast.

Comments (3)

If you wish for your response to an article to be submitted as a letter to the editor, please email [email protected].
All Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • A

    AriOct 25, 2023 at 9:16 pm

    Truly objective would involve equal coverage of both sides, but there is an undeniable bias towards Israel in this article exemplified by the sources used, language used, and the fact that Western media heavily supports other Western states (Israel). Here it is said, “The head of the United Nations Human Rights Office warned of war crimes and human rights violations by Israel while Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza, has been accused by experts of committing crimes against humanity in its civilian killing and abduction spree on Oct. 7”. The word “warned” is used as if war crimes and human rights violations have not already been committed and have been for 75 years. Additionally, “war crimes and human rights violations” is incredibly vague while Hamas’ “civilian killing and abduction spree” is clearly outlined. This article says “among the dead and the missing” but only highlights the dead and missing in Israel and none of the 5000 dead in Palestine (2000 at the time this article was released) due to Israel’s incessant bombing and shooting and sniping. This violence is referred to as “fighting” in this article, which is an incorrect term as Palestinians are on far unequal ground than the US-funded Israeli military. Additionally, might I inquire why only Jewish and Muslim students/faculty were represented? If this was truly representative of Lafayette, other students would’ve been included as well. This is promoting the narrative that this is a religious issue while it is a political one. This article mirrors the type of biased reporting we see from the US and other Western states and is harmful especially if this is the only reporting students are seeing on this issue. I understand that it is not easy to write about this issue, so in the future, I advise having an expert on the issue provide advice and guidance or refrain from writing at all.

  • A

    AnonymousOct 25, 2023 at 8:04 pm

    This article has 3 voices from the Israelis perspective and only one from the Palestinian perspective. It’s blatantly unfair to only showcase one side heavily and an emphasis needs to be placed on both. Where in this article have you mentioned the nuanced history of Israeli occupation and the genocide that has been occurring for 75 years?
    You are a representation of failing media and it’s so disappointing that this is what you are reporting.
    Where is all you reporting on the rampant Islamophobia on this campus on platforms like Yik yak and the classroom and how’s it affecting students on this campus.
    I’m so saddened that this media that represents me. DO BETTER

  • A

    AreebOct 25, 2023 at 12:10 pm

    This is a disgustingly one sided article. Journalism like this clearly depicts what is wrong with US media coverage. The Lafayette you should be embarrassed.