Rabbi Osher Kravitsky,  who heads the Chabad of Great Neck,...

Rabbi Osher Kravitsky,  who heads the Chabad of Great Neck, said Monday that his wife and two youngest children were in Israel during the weekend attack by Hamas militants and planned to stay in a show of support for the embattled country. Credit: Google Maps

Most of Rabbi Osher Kravitsky’s family was supposed to come back to Long Island from Israel on Sunday, a day after attending a ceremony inducting one of their sons into the Israeli military.

But Saturday morning, Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip launched the biggest offensive against Israel in 50 years. The induction was canceled and Kravitsky's 18-year-old son immediately deployed with the Israeli Defense Forces.

The rabbi's wife and two youngest children, ages 4 and 9, are now intending to stay in Israel temporarily — like the daughter of another Long Island rabbi initially trapped but staying put, and resolute — a show of support for the embattled country.

Another of Kravitsky's sons, 22, who previously served in the Israeli military, is torn between staying in Israel to protect his mother and two siblings, or rejoining his old unit, which contacted him to say he is needed. As of Monday, he was staying at the home of another brother, 24, who lives with his wife and two young daughters in a one-bedroom apartment in northern Israel. That is also where the rabbi’s wife and their two youngest children are hunkered down.

Kravitsky, who heads the Chabad of Great Neck, part of an Orthodox movement, was supposed to be on the trip but he had to cancel his participation at the last minute.

So he waits and worries in Great Neck about the fate of his entire family.

They have decided to remain in Israel, the rabbi said, and even if they could immediately return to New York, they wouldn't. Kravitsky said it's more important that they stay and support the Israeli people during one of the nation’s worst crises since it was established in 1948.

“These are our brothers and sisters,” Kravitsky said. “We can’t just abandon them because it’s not convenient for us.”

He added: “It’s a very difficult decision but this is our land, this is our people, and we have to stand in solidarity.”

Chabad of Commack Rabbi Mendel Teldon and his daughter Chanchie share that view. The 18-year-old arrived in Jerusalem in August for a post-high school year of study. She's been dashing to bomb shelters as air raid sirens go off repeatedly, warning of incoming missiles, but she has no plans to return to Long Island immediately — and her father is OK with that.

“I feel simultaneously concerned and confident,” she will be safe, Teldon said. The Israeli military is “quite capable,” and is now on the offensive. “The tide has changed.”

Still, he said, just about everything around his daughter has shut down.

“She says the town is empty,” Teldon said. “There is no one walking the streets.”

Kravitsky said his relatives have spent some of their time since the offensive at local construction sites looking for large stones to try to build a fortress around their apartment in case an attack comes.

They have heard what they believe to be mortar shots, Kravitsky said. Most of the fighting so far is in southern Israel.

His 22-year-old son, Meir, a former soldier trained as a machine-gunner, for now is staying with his mom and siblings to protect them.

“He’s trained for combat. She’s not,” Kravitsky said. “They are basically just sheltering in place. He doesn’t want to abandon his mom yet.”

The rabbi's 18-year-old son, Menachem, decided to serve in the Israeli military just like his older brother, Kravitsky said. As U.S. citizens who grew up here, they are not required to do so, but wanted to out of a sense of solidarity.

He said the family does not know where Menachem is deployed.

Kravitsky was still processing the massive surprise weekend attack Monday.

“This is unbelievable," he said. "This is taking everybody by complete shock."

He is praying for a quick resolution of the conflict, and sending out messages of peace.

When darkness comes, “the first thing we have to respond with is light, with kindness and words of kindness and acts of kindness,” Kravitsky said. “Because what the terrorists want is to bring darkness into the world and to subjugate the world in their darkness with fear.”

A fast conclusion to the combat will “spare Jewish and Muslim lives as well,” he said. “We are all God’s creatures.”

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