War erupting in Israel has punctured Toronto with pain from afar – with loved ones lost, huddled in bomb shelters or taking positions on the front lines – since Hamas executed a surprise assault over the weekend.

The group, designated as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government, launched a heavy barrage of rockets into Israel on Saturday. At dawn, Hamas militants crossed into Israel by land, air, and sea, gunning down civilians and capturing hostages in their wake.

In the mere days since more than 2,200 people have been killed on both sides — a death toll unreached in Israel since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria.

CTV News Toronto spoke to locals stuck in Israel, as well as those with loved ones navigating the brutal violence that continues to unfold.


Idan and Prielle Rakovsky, a pair of Israeli newlyweds living in Toronto, travelled to a kibbutz in southern Israel a couple weeks ago, excited to introduce family to their newborn son.

Hopes of a family reunion were soon dashed and the couple shrouded in grief when Prielle found out her brother, Avidan Tordjman, had been killed in a targetted attack, according to a rabbi who is acting as a spokesperson for the family.

Avidan was killed in a Hamas militant attack on the Supernova music festival in southern Israel on Saturday, a massacre that killed hundreds. He was 26 years old.

“[He] was in touch when he was hiding under a stage and then it was silent,” Rabbi Rafi Lipner said after virtually attending Tordjman’s funeral on Tuesday.


The rabbi welcomed Idan and Prielle into his congregation at Shaarei Tefillah in North York shortly after they got married and moved to Toronto.

He called what happened to them “the biggest nightmare times infinity.”

“They came back with an extra Jewish person to their family and unfortunately it wasn't adding a number. It was just replacing a loss within the same family,” Lipner said.


Sirens blared as Meir Gluzberg drove to check on his parents in the outskirts of Tel Aviv on Tuesday, he told CTV News Toronto in an interview later that day.

With 90 seconds to get under his car before rockets were set to blast overhead, Gluzberg heart began to pound, he recalled.

“I was thinking, ‘There’s a chance I’m going to die’ – pure luck,” Gluzberg, who lives and works between Toronto and Israel, said.

Three days earlier, he'd awoken to the same siren sound at 6:30 a.m.

“The experience of waking up to sirens – it’s traumatizing,” he said.

IsraelGluzberg said he initially dashed to a bomb shelter with his family, but returned to bed soon afterward — at the time, he didn’t know the scope of the attack, that videos of hostages captured had begun to emerge, and rows of body bags that would soon pile up.

It was only when his teenage son and daughter were called back to their army bases, among the 300,000 Israel Defense Forces reserves mobilized, that the gravity of the conflict began to sink in.

“That’s when we realized how serious the problem is,” he said. “My son already went to funerals of colleagues in his unit.”


Kinneret Butterfield-Morrison travelled from Toronto to Israel for a one-year memorial of her mother’s death.

She was at her aunt’s house in Rehovot when the first round of rockets landed in the central city in Israel, south of Tel Aviv.

On-and-off for more than five hours on Saturday, from 6:30 a.m. to noon, they huddled in a stairwell.

“At that time, I didn't know the horror of what I was about to learn and that is the most painful thing,” she said.

Her flight home on Oct. 13 was cancelled as airlines suspended flights in and out of Tel Aviv on Sunday, which left her scrambling until sourcing a flight with Israel’s airline El Al on Oct. 16.

IsraelWhile Butterfield-Morrison is eager to get home to her seven-year-old and two-year-old, she also can’t imagine extracting herself from the palpable pain consuming her mother’s homeland.

“We’re broken,” Butterfield-Morrison said. “I am broken.”


When sirens echoed across the nation, all Carolyn could do to comfort her 89-year-old mother was speak with her over the phone — she was nearly 10,000 km away, in a community near Tel Aviv and Carolyn was back in Toronto.

Carolyn, who asked CTV News Toronto to omit her surname due to safety concerns, said she felt like she was "literally" huddled in a safe house with her mother during the attacks.

"I could feel the bombs exploding," she said.

Carolyn could hear the fear in her mother's voice at first — then, nothing as she soon became too stressed to speak.

“You just want to be with them and you feel so detached being here.”