BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Jewish community in Western New York is watching the situation closely in Israel, fearing for their loved ones.
From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Bet Shemesh, former Buffalonians are dealing with the harsh realities of war some say they know all too well. Unlike any missile strike before, they say this has been more gruesome and scary, comparing it to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Everyday I wake up and I’m reminded of this terrifying reality and wish it was all a dream,” Elen-Sarrah Dolgopolskaia, who grew up in Williamsville and now lives in Tel Aviv, said.
She shared several videos with News 4, showing her laying on the ground in Tel Aviv as a missile warning siren blared nearby. She also showed Tel Aviv on Thursday night, which was eerily quiet with no one around.
“I heard a siren [Saturday] and we ran outside. I was back in my apartment and there’s no bomb shelter, so we ran to the stairs and I heard a huge crash. That was a building that was hit by a rocket. The Iron Dome tries to intercept them as much as they can, but they can’t get all of them. A building around the corner from me was actually hit and that’s what I heard. As safe as it relatively is, it is not,” Dolgopolskaia added.
Judie Berdugo moved to Buffalo when she was 8 years old and went to Sweet Home High School. Her parents are Holocaust survivors and she lived in Hungary before moving to Western New York. She detailed how while growing up in Hungary it was shameful to be Jewish and her father said he didn’t want to live in fear, prompting their move to the United States. She agrees with her father’s words today.
“I don’t want to live like that. I want to be able to live in my country and my city,” Berdugo, who now lives in Jerusalem, said.
On Thursday, she received a call from her neighbor, saying there was a missile strike near Ari’el in the West Bank, which is where her children live.
“One of my friends called me and said did you hear what happened there was a missile sent to Ari’el. So immediately I called my children. I talked to my son-in-law. He said ‘We’re okay. It missed us and actually, this missile landed near one of the Arab villages that’s right near us, but it missed them too,” Berdugo explained.
Jack Kaminker is an Amherst native, graduating from Amherst High School. He moved to Israel after college and now lives in Bet Shemesh. He detailed the harsh realities he is trying to come to grips with and says Hamas tried to kill as many Jews as possible as quickly as they could.
“People were massacred in their beds, children were murdered in a cruel fashion by people that want to instill terror, but these are the same people that want to destroy American, western values,” Kaminker added.
He says people living along the southern Israeli border only have mere seconds to get to safety when a siren sounds before a missile could hit their area.
“It’s kind of like having terrorists in Grand Island and they would shoot missiles. And the people that live in Buffalo they’d have 15 seconds to get to the shelter or maybe less. Even so, they’d also shoot to Binghamton, to Syracuse to Rochester. So if you were fortunate you’d live like in Syracuse and you’d have 90 seconds and you’d think wow we have it easy,” Kaminker said.
Moshe Kaminker, Jack’s son, is 23 years old and he sent photos to News 4 showing a street he says was attacked by Hamas. He says his friend was killed at the music festival after ushering people to safety.
“When the attacks started, instead of fleeing, he decided to stay there and try to direct the small amount of forces of police and security that were there who were not a match for terrorists with AK-47s. All they had were hand guns. He stayed there and directed the forces, made sure people got to safety and in the process he was shot and murdered,” Moshe said.
He adds that violent attacks are normal in Israel, which is an unfortunate reality he lives in.
“Unfortunately here in Israel, terror is something we deal with on a daily basis. Never something of this magnitude, so it’s still hard to believe hard to process,” Moshe continued. “Trying to look forward, help out as much as possible and we’ll have time to grieve later.”
Dolgopolskaia says Israel is critical to the Jewish faith, representing safety and peace.
“It’s something that’s really sacred to a lot of Jews and represents safety for Jews and a place for us to be. It’s very, very scary when something like this happens. Even though I don’t personally know anyone that’s been killed, I really feel like it’s my family that’s been killed,” Dolgopolskaia said.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.