Adi and Ayelet are identical 23-year-old twins living together in Tel Aviv. The sisters moved to Israel from Britain in 2018, and served their mandatory military service together that same year.
Now, only one of them has been called to duty.
“They have always had each other,” said Tal Kasuto, their older brother who lives in Leeds, England. “They are so close.”
“It’s a scary thought,” he said of his sister, Adi, leaving her home and the relative safety of her day job in retail to join troops to fight a war.
In the last three days, the family WhatsApp group has become a place where Kasuto’s sisters share their worries about the unfolding conflict — and a place where family members check in with them constantly, reminding them that they are loved.
Hamas launched an unprecedented attack Saturday on Israel, firing rockets and infiltrating across the border; Israel responded with airstrikes and a declaration of war. U.S. officials expect Israel to launch a ground incursion into Gaza this week.
Military service is compulsory for all Israelis when they turn 18, though there are some exceptions. After this, they are assigned to the reserve and can be called upon to serve periodically.
At the check-in queue for an Israir Airlines flight from Berlin to Tel Aviv on Monday, a few dozen Israelis waited in the hopes of getting on a flight home. Check-in staff announced that priority would be given to those answering Israel’s unprecedented call-up of reservists. “Military first,” said one, as he indicated that he could only take 10 people from the ticketless line.
With a slew of carriers canceling flights to Tel Aviv as rockets target the airport, many of those still running are fully booked. El Al, the national carrier, has announced that it will schedule extra flights to help people get home.
Israeli entrepreneur Noam Lanir, 56, has also joined reservists, along with his two sons. Lanir, who volunteered to fight since he would not be drafted due to his age, is one of the leaders of Brothers and Sisters in Arms, a group of reservists who have been protesting the Israeli government’s plan to limit the Supreme Court’s power. He spoke to The Washington Post as he ran to a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv while wearing a military uniform.
“I lost my father, uncle and cousin in the Yom Kippur War,” Lanir told The Washington Post. “Now it is my time.”
Lanir also said he is using his private jet to fly people into Israel from Italy and Greece. Those on board his plane are seeking information about their loved ones, many of them dead or missing. Lanir said Israeli officials have been granting him permission to operate the flights on a humanitarian basis.
“I’m sending my private jet to whoever needs it,” he said. “We survived Auschwitz, we survived the Yom Kippur War. We will survive this.”
“Of course we are scared,” said Dan, a 35-year-old Israeli, who spoke to The Washington Post on Tuesday as he made his way to a military base. “We are afraid, but we are focused.”
Dan left behind his job as a supply chain and operations consultant to fight. Parting from his two children — one of them 3 years old and another 9 months — was “very hard,” he said.
“I hugged and kissed my wife,” he said, before adding, “My beautiful wife.” As long as he has access to his phone, he said, he will use it to send her updates, to let her know he is okay.
Until he reaches his military camp, Dan does not know what his exact mission will be. He said that while it was not compulsory for him to step up, he wanted to volunteer. “You have to do whatever it takes,” he said.
Loveday Morris contributed to this report from Berlin.