New York City is home to thousands of Israeli military reservists and veterans who have just uprooted their lives to join the fight against terrorists who seek to destroy the Jewish state.
According to Itay Milner, a spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in New York, more than 3,000 IDF reservists have been called up from throughout the United States to fight for Israel since Hamas’ unexpected terrorist strike on October 7.
Ariel Nurieli dropped out of Columbia University’s math and political science programs three days after Hamas killed 1,400 Israelis and immediately reenlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces.
“People say, ‘Wow you left everything behind’ . . . but if we don’t do this there won’t be anything to come back to,” Nurieli, 25, told The Post from the frontlines of the country’s northern region, as a ground invasion of Gaza looms.
Nurieli, a native of Miami and a former IDF officer, recalls packing two photos of him and loved ones at weddings and saying farewell to friends who dropped by his apartment before he left for the airport. His father called him right before his trip to tell him how proud he was of him.
“We have to make sure there’s a place that will always welcome the Jewish people, no matter what,” he said.
Many New Yorkers have said that the rising anti-Israel and antisemitic hostility that has afflicted the city in recent weeks has inspired them to join the fight.
“There’s no doubt that being in New York, it was like being in a war without a weapon on you,” said Lihi, a 24-year-old Columbia student and IDF reservist and native of Tel Aviv.
Despite being chased on New York City streets for speaking her native Hebrew to her mother and attacked for posting signs of civilians kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, Lihi, who is stationed at Israel’s northern border as the operations head for an elite commander unit, said she feels “the most secure” on the front lines.
The antisemitic atmosphere permeating her campus and the city “was the trigger to be back home,” she said, adding many of her Columbia friends today are scared to leave their apartments and are even suffering panic attacks.
Ayal Yakobe, an IDF reservist, went to fight with Hamas despite having the choice to stay at home.
Yakobe, 25, couldn’t stand the thought of sitting on the couch while others fought, so he persuaded his mother to book a trip for him to go to Tel Aviv on Saturday night to join the 55th Paratroopers Brigade, even though his IDF platoon sergeant indicated his unit was full.
“This was something that if I didn’t do now, I was gonna think about for the rest of my life,” Yakobe said, explaining that he left behind two jobs — as a lab worker at Columbia and caring for disabled men at a living-assistance home.
“This is a really big turning point,” he said. “If we’re able to pull this off . . . we can either make greater peace in the region or greater war in the region, and I’m excited about the prospect of greater peace.”
Some New York City Israelis contributed to the war effort with their fighting spirit and supplies.
When Chanoch Eli Berman, a reservist paratrooper, went to New York City years ago, he made a vow to his commanding officer: should war break out, he would not only return, but he would carry with him “hundreds of suitcases of gear.”
The 29-year-old had 15 suitcases packed with flashlights, tactical gear, and other combat gear he had acquired with money his New York City friends had earned through a fundraiser before he showed up in the country’s north to begin hard training exercises ahead of the ground invasion.
“A lot of my American friends were scared for my safety. It’s a very dangerous conflict, and war doesn’t always end the way we want it to,” he said.
“But for me . . . there’s no way I would let my brothers who have been fighting in my unit for 12 years go in alone.”
Strangers have also been pitching in to aid these heroic New Yorkers by covering their bills while they are fighting overseas.
Ezra Gershanok, co-founder of the subleasing website Ohana, launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise at least $36,000 to cover one month’s rent for 14 Israeli soldiers, bringing in over $7,200 so far.
“At a moment’s notice, people got called up and they decided to put their life on the line,” Gershanok said.
“I feel like the least [we] can do is make sure they don’t get evicted when they come back.”