CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina families are mourning losses and anxiously awaiting updates on loved ones in the Israel-Hamas War.
Tuesday, Rabbi Zalman Bluming received a video from his 21-year-old nephew who is fighting in Israel.
“And he told me, I just hope that everyone that you’re in touch with is courageous, is strong, is helping, is holding their head up high,” Bluming said.
Bluming leads the Chabad Jewish Organization at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke.
“One thing I keep on sharing with the students are that young men and women at the age of 18 to 21 and Israel have no choice but to fight for their family, for their security, and for their peace,” Bluming said.
Also in Chapel Hill, professor Gidi Shemer is getting updates from friends in Israel. Shemer came to UNC-Chapel Hill from Israel nearly two decades ago.
“Two of my best friends actually from Chapel Hill did move back to Israel, were there that Saturday (and) were in the safety room there. Terrorists were outside the room door demolishing their house,” Shemer said.
Shemer said although Israel is a relatively small country, the impact of the attack is immense as he gets word from loved ones oversees.
“My wife’s best friend from childhood, she lost her son,” Shemer said.
President Joe Biden said Tuesday that more than 1,000 Israeli civilians and at least 14 Americans have died. Gaza officials report more than 900 deaths.
“The cost of human life of all innocent life is really a toll that’s too much on our hearts,” Bluming said.
Duke University officials say there are about two dozen faculty and students in the region affected by the war.
“We understand some of them were able to leave today,” spokesperson Frank Tramble said in a statement. “Duke has made International S.O.S. and the U.S. Embassy aware. The area has been added to the Duke Restricted Regions List, which prohibits Duke-supported travel to areas of concern. On campus, resources have been shared with students and others in the Duke community who are worried about loved ones or need support for any reason.”
UNC Chapel-Hill confirmed they have accounted for two students currently studying abroad in Jerusalem.
“Over the weekend we connected with both students to verify they are safe and offer our support. Students have shifted online for the remainder of this week. We are closely monitoring the situation and remain in contact with our students and partner institution Hebrew University. At this time, we do not intend to make any changes to the program but will update as necessary to ensure the utmost safety of our students,” the university said in a statement.