Michelle Conwisar
Immediate Past President, Hadassah Southern California

How Hadassah’s Solidarity Mission to Israel Inspired Me and Gave Me Hope, Part 4

Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.

This is the last in a four-part series by Michelle Conwisar on her recent visit to Israel as part of a Hadassah Solidarity Mission.

On October 7th, about 70 Hamas terrorists attacked Kfar Aza, a kibbutz less than two miles from the border of the Gaza Strip, massacring 64 of its 1,000 residents and abducting 18 hostages. As a participant in Hadassah’s Solidarity Mission, I was taken on a tour of the kibbutz by two surviving siblings in their 30s, a young man and his sister. Their entire three-generation family had been living in Kfar Aza.

They told us that their older brother was murdered in the massacre while fighting the infiltrating terrorists. They showed us where his body was found, under a tree in a beautiful section of the kibbutz. They led us through their mother’s completely destroyed home, where we witnessed the bullet holes sprayed throughout the house.

Then we walked past the young adult section of the kibbutz where the 18+-year-olds get to live once they turn 18. This area is closest to the Gaza border and where the terrorists entered the kibbutz. Of the 18 hostages taken from Kfar Aza, 13 have been released; five are still being held. Our guides asked us not to post the identities of these hostages in order to preserve their privacy, though they find it cathartic to provide tours of the devastation so that when we return home, we can do everything we can to keep these innocent people’s memories alive.

Photo courtesy of the author.

As I am writing this, I am still processing all we saw. I’m still in shock and a bit numb. It will take more time to come up from the heaviness of all we bore witness to on this Mission.

We on the Mission realize that not many people would voluntarily fly across the world to go into a war zone, but we felt such a pull and responsibility to show up for Israel’s people with whom we are so strongly connected. We are very grateful to Hadassah for giving us this opportunity.

Throughout this journey, I have experienced two powerful emotions: internal pain and intense pride. There has been the pain of innocent lives lost and the pride in the resilience and strength of the Israeli people. But there is also the stark reminder of the importance to Israelis to have the global community’s support.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Now that I am home, I know I carry with me a solemn duty to bear witness to the destruction and the trauma and to use my voice to advocate for justice and peace. Our collective voices have the power to make a difference in bringing the hostages home now, ensuring that the world never forgets the horrors that have occurred and in ending the silence about Hamas’ use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

While in New York City a couple of weeks ago for a Hadassah meeting, I had the opportunity to visit the Nova Music Festival traveling exhibit. Initially, I thought I didn’t need to go since l had already visited the actual site in Israel. However, a friend insisted it was an unbelievable exhibition, more emotional and impactful than visiting the actual site. She was absolutely right.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Walking into the exhibit, you are transported into a mock version of the festival. Despite being in an indoor venue, it feels as if you are outside at a music festival. The exhibit includes trees, dirt floors, tents, booths and even porta potties. Video screens throughout the exhibit play live footage from October 7th, when terrorists infiltrated the festival. The scene is chaotic, showing burned and shot-up cars. It’s an interactive experience that immerses you in the emotions the festival goers must have felt.

At the end, there is a memorial with pictures of all the innocent victims who were murdered. You leave the exhibit in utter disbelief that this happened. It feels as if you have just emerged from watching a horror movie.

Photo courtesy of the author.

The exhibit shares numerous stories of the people who perished, providing a deeper connection to the devastating attack and to the loss of those young, innocent, free-spirited individuals. You feel not only for those who died but also for the survivors. Witnessing their friends being raped, murdered and kidnapped is an unimaginable trauma that will stay with them for a lifetime.

The exhibition is in New York City until June 22nd, and then it will travel to different cities around the country. Don’t miss it.

Photo courtesy of the author.

I urge each one of you to go to Israel. Let us stand in solidarity with its people and let us work together to build a brighter future for all.

Never Again Is Now.
Am Yisrael Chai. The nation of Israel lives.

Here’s what you can do to help right now:

  1. Contact your elected officials: If you’re American, click here to find out  how to urge your legislators to sanction supporters of Palestinian terrorists. If you’re a citizen of another country, tell your leaders it is not acceptable that innocent civilians from 18 countries are being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas.

2. Contact the White House. Anyone can do this; you don’t need to be a US citizen! And these appeals are tracked, so make sure your voice is heard! Call +1-202-456-1414 and/or email

 3. Contact Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at and demand he do more to ensure the return of the remaining hostages.

 4. Have faith. Whatever form of prayer you relate to, please pray for the hostages’ safe return. They were randomly kidnapped and deserve to be home.

Michelle Conwisar is Immediate Past President, Hadassah Southern California (HSC).

About the Author
Michelle Conwisar is the Immediate Past President of Hadassah Southern California and a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. As a third generation Hadassah leader Michelle is honored to follow in her mother and grandmothers’ legacy. Michelle has held many leadership roles in her nearly three decades of Hadassah involvement. Currently she is a National Evolve: The Next Generation Liaison helping to expand Hadassah’s outreach to a younger demographic in local communities. Michelle is also the Vice Chair of the upcoming National Capital Campaign which will be launching in the near future. As a proud National Hadassah Leadership Fellow Alumna, a two-year leadership training program that she was selected for in 2016, Michelle credits Hadassah for giving her opportunities to feed her passions for Israel, advocacy, and fundraising for medical research. Michelle’s husband of 30 years, Phil, is a Hadassah Associate. They have two daughters who are fourth generation Hadassah life members.
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