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'There is no escape': A couple from Israel tries to find peace

Kesem and Gabriella came to the U.S. to visit family and celebrate the Jewish high holidays. Little did they know, they wouldn't be able to leave.
'There is no escape': A couple from Israel tries to find peace
Posted at 10:46 AM, Oct 13, 2023

Gabriella and Kesem say they've found peace at a park in Leawood, Kansas. It features symbols and sculptures, like Jacob's Ladder, that remind them of their home in Tel Aviv, Israel.

"It’s a kind of guilt," Gabriella told Scripps News Kansas City. "I’m in this perfect paradise, you know? Look at this green grass and everything planted perfectly, and there’s people on the other side of the world who won’t be able to experience this."

The pair came to Kansas City to visit Gabriella's family and celebrate the Jewish High Holy Days. They didn't know they wouldn't be able to leave.

"It’s almost like communicating with our loved ones is our full-time job right now," Gabriella said.

SEE MORE: Israel at War: A Scripps News special report

What makes it worse is seeing the terror attacks online as Gabriella and Kesem try to do whatever they can from thousands of miles away.

"Everyday, it almost gets more difficult to cope because more news comes out, and it’s hard to look away," Gabriella said.

"We try to shake ourselves out of it; let’s go out for a walk; let’s breathe some air," Kesem added.

He deleted all social media on Tuesday because he said he couldn't take it anymore. Kesem was born in New York City but was raised in Israel, and his family still lives there.

"The horrors that are occurring there are... so profoundly disturbing that when you see them... it doesn’t comprehend," Kesem said. "But then for the rest of your day, and the rest of your night, and the days that follow, it’s flashing constantly in your head."

He said it's important to understand and be aware of what's happening, but not to drown in it.

"If we break our heart over and over again looking at the worst things possible, it just doesn’t allow us to rebuild that strength so that we can be strong for them," Kesem said.

SEE MORE: Israel urges 1.1M Gazans to evacuate due to ground offensive threat

That's similar advice Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy school psychologist Sarah Whelan is giving people right now.

"We can do the doom-scrolling, and we all want to know is what’s going on," Whelan said. "But doing that too much and inadvertently seeing images that we can’t ever unsee has a real impact on our mental health."

Some of her tips to cope include:

- Staying off social media first thing in the morning and first thing at night.

- Find credible, trusted sources to get your information from.

- Maintain a routine.

- Get physical activity, like taking a walk and getting fresh air.

- Parents: talk to your kids about what's going on.

"There’s so much we cannot control, but we can control, like, you know what, there’s this thing that I can go do, and they’re going to have a drive where they’re sending stuff to soldiers in Israel," Whelan said. "Finding a meaningful way to contribute can really help connect people and give them a sense of, like, 'I’m actually helping and contributing.'"

In a time where it feels like all hope is lost, they also find peace in being safe and together.

"I don’t know what God did to gift us this moment, but it’s like the most special thing that we get to be here," Gabriella said.

This story was originally published by Caroline Hogan at Scripps News Kansas City.

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