Temima Silver is waiting for the call to report for duty in the Israeli military.
Born and raised in Ottawa, the 21-year-old moved to Israel in 2020 to join the Israel Defense Forces. Released from service last year, Silver said she recently responded to a call asking members of her former platoon to voluntarily return to duty after Hamas attacked Israel on Saturday.
Hundreds of people, including young children, were killed in the attacks, whose targets included a music festival and communal farming settlements. “What else is there to do but go out and fight?” Silver asked.
Israeli-Canadian reservists like her say they’re volunteering because they believe it’s the right thing to do, even though they’re not looking forward to combat.
“If you don’t believe that this will succeed, then you don’t believe that you see a tomorrow for future generations of Israel, of Jews, of your brothers and sisters. There is no choice,” she said in an interview Wednesday.
Silver decided to stay in Israel after she left the military and now lives near Tel Aviv. She said she believes success in Israel’s war with Hamas will involve freeing the more than 150 hostages held by militant groups, as well as ensuring the safety of Israelis.
“War is not a pretty thing. Even though I served in the army and I served as a combat soldier, I’m not sitting here happy that we’re going to war,” she said. “It’s a horrifying thing. It takes resources, it takes lives, it takes pain and it takes from people’s hearts.”
Silver said she moved to Israel as a “lone soldier” — someone from another country who doesn’t have family in Israel — after seeing antisemitic incidents in her high school. Since moving to the Jewish state, she said she has felt a sense of belonging and that she doesn’t have to be afraid because she is Jewish.
Josephine Buchman, who immigrated to Canada from Israel in 2012 and now lives in the Toronto area, worked in recruitment during her military service in Israel and was never a member of the reserves. She said Israelis overseas aren’t required to return to service if they’re called up, but many are returning all the same.
And other Israelis who live abroad are finding different ways to help, she said. Buchman said she is raising money for a paratrooper unit in Israel. With more than 360,000 reservists called up, there is a shortage of bulletproof vests, boots and tactical equipment, she said.
“I’m happy for my children that we’re not there, but I’m so torn because all my family, my friends, people I grew up with, they’re all there,” she said Thursday. “So you feel like you can’t do anything, and it’s driving you crazy.”
Noy Leyb, who grew up in Calgary but now lives in New York, said he got on the first flight he could to Israel after he heard about the Hamas attacks in order to return to the army, where he has served as a paratrooper. “Before my unit even contacted me I bought a plane ticket home,” he said in an interview Wednesday.
Leyb left Canada in 2009, at 18, to join the Israeli army. Since finishing active service, he said he has continued to return to Israel to train as a reservist once or twice a year. He said he arrived in Israel on Sunday evening and reported for duty the next morning.
“No one’s looking forward. No one wants to really be here,” he said. “But we have people killing us, we have people torturing us, we have people kidnapping us and doing things that even ISIS didn’t do to us. So we don’t want to be here, but we have to be here.”
For Leyb, victory will be the total destruction of Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since seizing power in 2007.
“For me, for many others, victory would be not taking off our uniform until every last member of Hamas is gone, every single last member, and that Gaza will become a different place, not led by terrorists, not led by people who call for the destruction of Israel,” he said.
Leyb said the Israeli military takes many steps to avoid civilian casualties, and while he acknowledges civilians will die in the conflict, he blames that on Hamas, which the Canadian government lists as a terrorist organization.
“Hamas is putting their people here, they’re using them as human shields …. Unfortunately, on both sides, there are civilian casualties. We’re not going to let Hamas walk all over us, we’re going to stand and we’re going to defend and that’s a part of war.”
While Silver said she sees nuance in the broader conflict between Israel and Palestine, describing it as a situation that isn’t black and white, she said the recent assault by Hamas was a brutal terrorist attack that took innocent lives.
“This specific attack doesn’t get more black and white,” she said.