Connection to Houston

Connection to Houston

October 16, 2023 – Around 7 a.m., my wife and I were woken by our host and told to stay alert. Rockets were being launched overhead from Gaza. 

It was Saturday, October 7. We were away from home, spending Shabbat in a suburb of Modiin, in central Israel, to celebrate the upcoming wedding of a friend. Neither of us knew what to think. Things had seemed calm the previous few days. We felt confused and uneasy.  

An hour later, as we walked to synagogue on an otherwise calm and peaceful morning, we saw young religious men with backpacks slung over their shoulders hurrying to their cars. Driving is normally prohibited on Shabbat. That was our first inkling that something had gone very wrong. Here in Israel, that sight can only mean one thing: The army needs more soldiers and has started calling up reservists.  

In Re’im on October 12, Israeli soldiers search for ID and belongings at the Supernova Music Festival site. The day before, hundreds were killed and dozens taken by Hamas militants. 

As the day wore on and more faces disappeared, rumors began to spread. There was talk of a mass infiltration at the Gaza border, of towns being overrun, of hostages being taken, of civilians being murdered, and of the Hamas terrorists sickeningly posting their rampages on social media, in real time.  

I’d known devastation, loss and numbness like this only once before: during Hurricane Harvey. 

I’m 23 and from Houston. In 2017, I remember, my father woke my siblings and me at 3 a.m. The water was about to enter our southwest Houston home.  It was time to go to our neighbors.  

We waded through waist-high floodwater. My dad, leading the way, carried our dog in his arms.  

A few sleepless hours later, looking out the second-story window at that house, I couldn’t see dry land at all. Streets, sidewalks, lawn: Water covered everything. 

I thought I’d left those feelings behind.  

The year following Harvey, I took what I expected to be a post-high school gap year in Israel. That felt right. I’d grown up in a proudly Jewish family — first, as members of the Congregation Brith Shalom, a conservative synagogue; and later, in the United Orthodox Synagogues. I’d attended day camp at the Jewish Community Center, gone to Jewish day school, and been active in the Bnei Akiva Zionist youth movement. 

Five years later, I’m still here, now a permanent resident of Israel. I’ve traded hot Houston summers for hot Israeli ones. I’m proud to call myself a resident of the Jewish State of Israel. 

And now, I’m reminded of Harvey. The mass panic, confusion and fear brings me back to the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. As with Harvey, there are thousands of displaced families with no clear path forward. I’m feeling now the same shock and helplessness that I felt in 2017. 

In Jerusalem, the father of Valentin Ghnassia cries next to his son’s casket. Ghnassia, 23, was killed in a battle with Hamas militants at a kibbutz near Israel’s border with Gaza. 

The parallels end there, though. Harvey was a tragic natural disaster. The flood wrecked my family’s home, and the homes and lives of so many others — but it did so blindly, unthinkingly, because that is what floods do. Hamas’ attack is anything but natural. Hamas proudly planned this gruesome massacre, this slaughter of civilians. The carnage is intentional — a weapon of terror wielded against our people. 

I still consider myself a proud Houstonian. I’m a fan of the Texans, Astros and Rockets. I miss Tex-Mex and barbecue. I wore Houston Strong as a badge of honor — a testament to my city’s strength and resilience. 

So from one Houstonian to another, I say to you now: We need your strength and support. Israel needs your strength and support. Whether it be on social media, in classrooms, to friends, to Jewish people you know, or donations to a fund, do not sit by as terror runs rampant. Do not be idle and complacent to wanton death and destruction. Every little act you do matters and helps to keep Hamas and its evil at bay. Speak up and speak out.  

I stand with Houston. I stand with Israel. 

Nathan Plumb studies psychology at Bar-Ilan University. He lives in Givat Shmuel, Israel, a suburb of Tel Aviv, with his wife, Sharona, and Bichon puppy, Teddy.