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'There is no escape': Couple from Israel tries to find peace while friends and family fight back home

Gabriella and Kesem
Posted at 6:30 PM, Oct 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-13 10:08:55-04

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

"It’s a kind of guilt," Gabriella said. "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 holidays. 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.

Gabriela and Kesum who live in Tel Aviv.

That, and wanting to do whatever they can from thousands of miles away. What makes it worse is seeing the terror attacks online.

"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 said.

He deleted all social media Tuesday because he said he couldn't take it anymore. Kesem was born in New York City, but was raised in Israel. 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 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 worse things possible, it just doesn’t allow us to rebuild that strength so that we can be strong for them," Kesem said.

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 what’s going on, but doing that too much and inadvertently seeing images that we can’t ever unsee has a real impact on our mental health," Whelan said.

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 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.