The author travelled to Israel in March as a participant of a delegation organised by the Australian Jewish Funders.  The views expressed here are her own.

Picture this: I am at my girlfriend, Sam and her husband’s home for Shabbat in Kochav Yair, a village north of Tel Aviv. They’ve saved up a while to buy this lovely home on a small plot with a front and back yard with space to support their passion for growing their own vegetables- I’m proudly shown sprouts of carrots and asparagus peeking through the dirt.

The village borders the West Bank city of Qalqilya on one side and the Israeli Arab city of Tira on another. “I hope you sleep soundly” my girlfriend warns. The adhan or Muslim call to prayer can be heard clearly at dawn. Secure in the knowledge that my earplugs will block out the shrillest of prayer calls, I sleep soundly for the first time in a week.

I’ll return to what that past week entailed in a moment. Saturday morning I’m offered the opportunity to shop at the shuk in Tira, the aforementioned Arab village. Ilan, my girlfriend’s husband explains that he shops there regularly: “The prices are a third of what the same item costs nearby”, he explains.

Cloaking myself in nervous bravado we head off. As we’re driving, Ilan points out the fish shop he frequents and where he usually buys his gardening supplies. We park at the corner of a petrol station near the entrance of the shuk. As I’m alighting the car, I notice a heavy-set, swarthy looking man smoking while he pumps up his tires. I’ll need to walk past him to access the shuk’s entrance. As I step towards him, something shimmers off his chest and I look more closely. An enormous gold chai sits proudly on the hair sprouting from his open-necked shirt – it was unmissable in the morning sun. Re-establishing my bearings, I contemplate that this Sephardi gentleman is safer in the middle of this Israeli Arab village proudly donning his chai than I would be wearing a similar emblem in central Melbourne. That’s shared society, seen all over Israel, in the hospitals we visited, the cafes and restaurants we attended, the universities and colleges and on the streets we walked.

Indeed one of the few silver linings to this tragic war is the quiet support of Israeli Arab citizens, including Muslim Israeli’s towards their fellow Jewish citizens. Their identification with Israel has strengthened as they refuted the actions of Hamas stating it was not done in their name. By contrast not one Muslim leader in Australia has publicly repudiated Hamas and Oct 7.

And now back to the recent week that shattered me.

Oct 7 was the worst day in Israel’s history but it also demonstrated the resilience and strength of Israeli society. I found an Israel deep in trauma, where everyone I met was connected in some way to tremendous loss.

On our journey to the South, our group met Hila Abir whose brother Lotan had danced the night away at the Nova festival. She learnt that he and a group tried to escape the marauding terrorists, were chased down and murdered while seeking refuge in a bomb shelter just outside Kibbutz Be’eri. She reflected: “God was gentle with us because at least we know where he is and we have him. He saved other people in the bomb shelter with his body when the grenades were thrown in.” 40 people crowded into the tiny shelter made for 10. Only 11 survived, saved by those who defended them with their bodies. Hila spent the day with us as we honoured the victims at Kibbutz Be’eri, Zikim Beach and the Nova site.

We visited the community of Kibbutz Reim, now located in South Tel Aviv and said to be the world’s first vertical kibbutz – almost the entire community has been relocated to a newly built apartment block. It’s an incredible model of what community resilience looks like, how philanthropy and civil society can collaborate.  We heard from Zohar, the kibbutz social worker. On Oct 7, their first responders only had 6 rifles to defend against 70 terrorists. They managed to defend the kibbutz by forcing them back and the vast majority of the kibbutz was saved. Eleven people died. Five kibbutz members were killed inside their home most by holding the doors of their safe rooms and being shot from the outside.

The mission of the kibbutz leadership was to relocate the community to be able to live together, preferably in a rural environment. The task seemed almost insurmountable: to find an appropriate space within 3 weeks. When Tel Aviv was offered, it was an opt in approach – each family could choose for themselves. 96% of community chose to come to Tel Aviv. It was a much better option than being relocated into hotels. Each family of five is allocated two apartments; they split them between sleeping and the other for living.

Zohar described the community as in the depths of trauma, they haven’t started mourning, rehabilitation cannot begin and cannot until the hostages are returned. Two forms of trust have been broken, she explained: the first between the government, army, and the Gaza border communities. The second between parents and their children: children she said, saw fear and desperation on their parents’ faces, and a realisation that they may not be able to save them. While we sat, we heard the lively shrieks from the kids playing outside. But they’re broken, Zohar explained. Just sit with that for a moment.

One of the biggest challenges is the sites of the destroyed kibbutzim will not remain memorials for journalists to witness and report on and for those who wish to bear witness. Rather the communities are expected to return to the very places where they were massacred. It will require huge mental resources to deal with that and some may determine they cannot ever return.

It was a jam-packed week. Intended to expose us to as much as possible, there was little time to reflect and absorb what we were seeing. Describing the week to a friend of mine who had made aliyah following university, he explained that discomfort as a metaphor about Israeli society. Every day they experience shock, grief, despair and loss and still must get on with the mundane but important routines of everyday life, working, getting food on the table, the kids ready for school, paying bills, the laundry. They must learn to process and carry those burdens while simultaneously living their lives. And you see that walking the streets, seeing the cafes full, volleyball and matkot on the beach. But a shopkeeper I spoke to lamented the dearth of customers. It’s not even about the lack of tourists she said. Israelis aren’t really shopping for anything other than essentials. Who feels like shopping at a time like this?

 Israel and the broader Jewish world’s greatest asset is its human capital. It’s about those who dropped everything both within Israel and globally, to fight, rescue, volunteer, advocate, support and rebuild. This time in Israel has fortified us to continue the battle, of shining the light of truth into the world’s dark recesses. It has reaffirmed our understanding of Jewish peoplehood, that we are one nation and that together we will not only succeed but flourish.

Article by Author/s
Liora Miller
Liora Miller is a CV writer and state election manager. She has a Masters and Bachelor of Law degrees and has practiced as a Costs Lawyer, Legal Adviser to the Attorney General and Judge's Associate to a Supreme Court Judge. She is the managing editor of Jewish Women of Words.


  1. Judi and Phil Alexander Reply

    Thank you Liora for sharing your experience with us all. It has been an unbelievable and unfathomable 6 months for so many and we can only hope the hostages are safe and will be released soon.
    Judi and Phil

  2. Elliot Rubinstein Reply

    Thank you for that very moving report. One of the outstanding things you mentioned, which we were unaware of, was the attitude of the Israeli Muslims. This is going to test Israeli resilience for a very long time.
    Sandra & Elliot

Write A Comment


Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter