NEW YORK (WPIX) – There are more than 2 million Jewish people living in the New York City area, making it the second largest metropolitan Jewish community in the world, behind Tel Aviv. Now, some are heading back to Israel following attacks by the militant group Hamas.
“I don’t think there’s another option,” Itay, an Israeli soldier who only wanted his first name used, told Nexstar’s WPIX. “I can’t stay in New York. I just want to go and help my friends out.”
The 22-year-old said Monday that he and his Israeli army buddy Koren are flying back to Tel Aviv.
After serving the mandatory two years and eight months in the Israel Defense Force, they arrived in New York City on Saturday night for a two-month tour of the United States.
But when they heard of the surprise Hamas attack in Gaza, killing hundreds of Israeli civilians, they knew they would be recalled to fight for their homeland and willingly wanted to go.
“It’s a weird feeling about the situation. I need to go back,” Koren said.
When asked if his mother is worried, he said, “She says just stay on your trip, have fun, but I cannot do that.”
They stocked up on items that are needed and in short supply in Israel at Brown’s Army Navy store in Astoria, Queens.
“We were looking for tourniquets but couldn’t find any,” Itay said.
A 49-year-old retired reservist was helping them collect the much-needed items.
“Money doesn’t really help,” Adem, the retired reservist, said. “The stores are empty. I’m working on shipping supplies and adopting a unit so we can help them with equipment.”
New York real estate broker Lihi Biton, from south Israel near Gaza, was close to tears Monday night, so worried about two close friends, Elkana Bohbot and Noa Argamani, who were taken hostage during a music festival on Saturday.
“My prayers and thoughts are with Noa and Elkana. I pray for them to be safe and secure and going back to Israel safely,” Biton said.