In the Heart of Conflict: My 10 Days in Israel

Picture of a large graffiti mural in Tel Aviv-Yafo - Giv'at Herzl with the writings "Bring Them Home Now" on May 29, 2024 (Photo by Shervin Eli Natan)
Picture of a large graffiti mural in Tel Aviv-Yafo - Giv'at Herzl with the writings "Bring Them Home Now" on May 29, 2024 (Photo by Shervin Eli Natan)
I spent the last week on a life-changing trip to Israel, accompanied by Friends of the IDF Young Leaders from across the country. It was an all-encompassing experience: cherishing every moment while honoring our fallen heroes and engaging in deeply emotional conversations with soldiers, Sapir Cohen (a hostage), viewing graffiti art in Tel Aviv-Yafo, talking to families and lawyers at the Hostage Forum, and those living amidst conflict in the South and North.
We visited numerous IDF bases, interacted with countless soldiers and notable speakers about current realities, and spent time in the South to witness the aftermath of the October 7th atrocities. We cried, laughed, danced, hugged, and enjoyed hummus together.
The unity of the Israeli people was profoundly uplifting. Every person, soldier or civilian, expressed gratitude for our support and the work FIDF does for our soldiers. Israel always feels special, but this visit was different.
People sang “Hatikva” on street corners late Saturday night in Jerusalem. Flags proudly flew outside every home, with yellow ribbons on every car commemorating the hostages. Surprisingly, I felt safer being 1 km from Gaza than walking around Montana and Barrington in Brentwood, a small suburban city in Los Angeles, knowing the IDF was there to protect me. Israelis repeatedly emphasized that the IDF is the strongest defense force in the world. It’s impossible to recount my entire week in a few words, but I will share the moments and stories with friends and family as they come up.
At one point, my Rabbi and friend, Rafael Cohen, joined me at Sheba Hospital to hear the stories of wounded soldiers. The strength and resilience of a 22-year-old soldier who lost his leg to a Hamas strike was one of the most powerful moments. The soldier’s strength, his mother’s unwavering support, and the resilience of the Jewish people ensured his survival. His mother stayed by his side day and night, embodying the spirit of the Jewish people: we never give up, and together we are stronger.
There is much to be said about all the IDF does to protect the Jewish State while going above and beyond to save innocent lives. The unity of the Jewish people, standing together as one big family, is remarkable. As a Persian Jew whose family was exiled from Iran, Israel is our only remaining home. With the current state of Jewish hatred in Los Angeles, nowhere feels safer than Israel.
And, of course, we must bring home all the hostages from captivity!
Picture of a large graffiti mural in Tel Aviv-Yafo – Giv’at Herzl with the writings “Bring Them Home Now” on May 29, 2024 (Photo by Shervin Eli Natan)
Being a Zionist means standing by Israel in both good and bad times, not just enjoying summer trips on the beach and nights on Rothschild. It means witnessing the atrocities of October 7th and volunteering to support our home, brothers, and sisters. Israel should not fight this war alone; we should visit our homeland this summer. Our work cannot be done from afar. In Israel, and together, we are stronger than ever.
I love my Jewish people and Israel.
Am Yisrael Chai!
About the Author
Shervin Eli Natan is the co-founder and President of the United Jewish Coalition, a nonpartisan committee uniting Jewish organizations worldwide to support Israel, combat antisemitism, and collaborate on collective actions.
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