Israelis were rushing to find a way to fly from the U.S. back home to join the fighting against Hamas despite airlines canceling their scheduled flights.
Noy Leyb, opened a WhatsApp group to help IDF reservists around the world find a way home. He himself managed to get on an El Al flight overnight, having paid $2500, an exceptionally high price. "My dad told me I was nuts to come but there is no question in my mind," he said. "I am a Zionist and there is no way that my friends would be there and I would not, no matter the financial cost."
He is a Canadian-born, reservist in the paratroopers and a tech entrepreneur who founded his own company in New York. He came to Israel on his own to serve in the military and his family followed and settled in the north. His brother who lives in Tel Aviv had already joined his unit.
"I've not slept," he says. "I keep asking myself what I am doing here. I see pictures of friends gearing up and asking for a ride to their base and am going crazy. I made a million calls and purchased a ticket on United Airlines, but that flight was canceled. Then I found one on Delta and that flight was canceled as well."
Leyb finally found a seat on the El Al flight to Tel Aviv. "I paid a crazy price but that is not the issue," he says. "People are trying to find any way to get back."
Yotam Avrahami, a businessman from New York said it took him all of 10 minutes to decide he must get back and join the fighting. "I grew up 50 minutes from Gaza. I have a wife, a seven-month-old baby girl a full operation and customers but I am setting all of them aside to get back," he said.
Avrahami is a reservist in the Armored Corps and spent hours searching for a flight sooner than the one available later on Sunday. "That's too late," he says. "My crew is there, and I have friends who are officers and need people.
"The Israeli community in New York organized quickly, making arrangements to host Israelis stuck in the city because of flight cancellations. They organized a meeting to offer support in the Jewish center in Manhattan for people who want to be together and support each other.
The Israeli consulate opened a war room to assist in the consular bureaucracy and organize volunteers to post on social media. Jewish organizations around the country were quick to condemn the Hamas attack and project a united front, which has become a rarity recently. Left-wing organizations such as J-Street said they stand with Israel and are appalled by events.
Eviatar Shamsayev, a 35-year-old teacher originally from Jerusalem says he has friends among the missing. He said he was inspired to return to Israel by other teachers at his Manhattan school. "It was reminiscent of how people reacted at the outbreak of the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Then too people did whatever they could to get back," he says.
"We are a group of 50 people who have not been in the reserves for years because we've been living abroad, but now everyone will be volunteering for service. This is a fight to protect our home. My blood boils. My sister has been calling me from her shelter, crying."
He says a WhatsApp group was opened for those who cannot leave but want to help by sending packages or money. "We've had a huge response. There are no liberals vs conservatives, now. Everyone is united in support of Israel. The equation has changed," he says.