‘I know we will get through this’

MIHS graduate tells of her harrowing experience in Israel.

Kayla Gabay and her family living in central Israel said they have no other choice but to get through the tragedy they have encountered.

Gabay, 28, who graduated from Mercer Island High School in 2013, messaged with the Reporter on Oct. 10 and told of the harrowing experiences that she, husband, Liran, 10-month-old son, Teddy, and a multitude of others have endured over the recent sleep-deprived days.

Four days earlier, Hamas militants launched air strikes on Israel on the final day of the Jewish high holidays. Following the attacks, Israel engaged in a conflict with Hamas and the war is still raging.

Kayla’s Mercer Island parents, Denise and Scott Mogil, said their daughter met Liran after she moved to Israel 10 years ago to volunteer for the Israeli army, according to a KING-TV report.

“My family is continuously trying to get us to fly to Seattle but we feel so torn, ‘cause this is our home. We don’t want to leave our family and friends during a time like this,” Kayla wrote of her parents, who still reside on the Island. “I know we will get through this. I don’t know what it will be like at the end of this, I don’t know where we will be.”

They’ve been shattered by the air raids and attacks and word that more bodies are being discovered on a daily basis. Kayla wrote that her family feels as if everyone is diving deeper into a black hole during the nightmare.

“With a baby, it makes things a bit challenging as well. We don’t have a bomb shelter, so when we need to run, we try to find room on neighboring buildings,” she added.

Liran’s parents are currently housing their son, Teddy and Kayla, along with Liran’s brother, whose wife was called into Israeli army reserve duty. Kayla feared that Liran would be next to serve with the army reserves and was told to prepare for that potential situation a few days ago. He was called for duty on Oct. 11.

Through the darkness that people are engulfed in, Kayla has witnessed the people of Israel unite and lighten the situation by lending each other a hand, she wrote.

“From collecting equipment for those being sent to the front lines, to donating breast milk (myself included) to babies whose mothers were massacred or kidnapped, it’s something that I’ve never seen before and gives me hope,” wrote Kayla.

When thinking of young, happy Teddy, Kayla added that she is grateful for his presence, “because he truly is the only thing giving us light during these days.”

Scott Mogil, who has lived on the Island with his family since 2005, said that he and Denise have conversed with Kayla every day since they received the distressing news on Oct. 7. Asking about her safety, housing and whether she and Liran are going to be called back into duty are the parents’ main concerns.

“Every time we do talk to her, remind her of how much she’s loved and how proud of her (we are),” said Scott, adding that they have an amazing support group of friends on the Island who are constantly checking in on them.

It’s important to have that connection with others on the Island — it keeps them sane, Scott noted. For Scott and Denise, engaging in their jobs has been a diversion from what’s happening abroad.

Scott said that although it’s difficult to accept Kayla’s decision to stay in Israel, they respect her wishes to remain there.

“As scary as it is at times, she feels the best thing to do is to stay there until (Liran) comes home,” he said.

Kayla was so drawn to Israel that she traveled there to attend a pair of camps as a teenager and later joined the Israeli Defense Force.

“She wanted to go and protect that country that she had fallen in love with over the course of two summers going to visit,” Scott said.

When searching his mind to describe Kayla, dad said that she’s very strong-willed, champions the underdog and has a captivating personality.

“She’s one of those people that when she walks into a room, she has presence and people tend to gravitate towards her,” he said.