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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Wildcats for Israel hosts Oct. 7 Hamas attack survivor Deborah Ben Aderet at speaker event

Kelley Lu/The Daily Northwestern
Deborah Ben Aderet speaks to students about life by the Gaza border and surviving the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Content warning: this article contains mentions of war, violence and death.

Over 50 students gathered at Northwestern Hillel on Tuesday night to hear about Oct. 7 Hamas attack survivor Deborah Ben Aderet’s experience living by the Gaza border and her life since evacuating her home in Kibbutz Zikim. 

Since returning to the U.S. on Oct. 25, Ben Aderet has been active in pro-Israel organizations and advocacy. She visits schools, synagogues and speaker events to share her personal experience and advocate for Israel.

Israel is engaged in a ground and air offensive in Gaza following the militant group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in Israel, which killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities. Israel has killed more than 32,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian authorities.

An Illinois native, Ben Aderet moved to Israel in 2011 and settled in Kibbutz Zikim, a community about two miles north of the Gaza border. Living there, she said, her family experienced buildup to the Israel-Hamas war, seeing roadside flames from incendiary balloons and avoiding toxic fumes from tire burnings near the border. 

Rockets were normal to the Ben Aderet family, she said, as she often heard explosions before receiving alerts. Her home basement — her daughters’ bedroom — served as a safe room.

“In Chicago, we have snow days,” Ben Aderet said. “In Zikim, we have rocket days.” 

Ben Aderet said on the day of the Hamas attack, her family took shelter in their basement safe room. She credits her kibbutz’s team of security volunteers for keeping them safe. No one in her kibbutz died, but she said deaths from the attack are only “one degree of separation” away from everyone in the community. 

Ben Aderet said she packed her belongings in Zikim to the “soundtrack of all the explosions,” fearing for her family’s safety. She added that in the aftermath of the attack, she saw dead people next to the road as she drove away from her home. 

For now, Ben Aderet said she and her daughters do not plan to return to Israel soon, particularly because of the presence of Hezbollah — an Iran-backed militant group in Lebanon — near the area as well. 

During the event, Ben Aderet emphasized the importance of media literacy. She showed photographs and videos of the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 as well as footage of Hamas presence and influence in Gaza. She said this type of content does not appear in the media often. 

“I also agree, ‘Free Palestine,’ but free them from Hamas,” Ben Aderet said. “So much of America just doesn’t even know what they’re signing up for and what they’re supporting.” 

Weinberg junior Gia Karamchandani, an exchange student from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said she came to the event in support of an Israeli friend and to learn more about global events. 

“What I learned today, I don’t feel like that’s so easily accessible in the media,” Karamchandani said. “If you were to just search about this more in the media, you wouldn’t really get too much of this perspective.”

Medill sophomore and Wildcats for Israel President Madeleine Stern said listening to speakers like Ben Aderet in an intimate setting helps bring meaning to stories read online or heard in large auditoriums.  

“Getting to hear the stories firsthand makes Israel feel a lot closer,” Stern said. “A lot of us have a very deep connection to Israel, and we’re very impacted by the Oct. 7 terror attacks.”

Many attendees disclosed that they were either from Israel or had been before. Stern said the goal of the event was to expand the reach of stories like Ben Aderet’s.

Karamchandani said being educated on this topic is important to those not in the community as well. 

“I feel like I should play a little bit of a role just to spread the word as much as I can, as a non-Jewish, non-Israeli person, because I think awareness is really important,” Karamchandani said. 

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X: @kelleylu_

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