Jerusalem study abroad students detail evacuation to London
Meghan Lange | Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Notre Dame study abroad students in Jerusalem woke up on Saturday, Oct. 7 under different circumstances than the typical study abroad student. The students at the University’s Global Gateway at Tantur, located on the southern edge of Jerusalem, heard air raid sirens early that morning and were evacuated to a bomb shelter immediately.
Senior Zachary Zong, who was studying at the gateway at the time, said in an email that the students had about 90 seconds to head to the shelter.
“Jerusalem is quite far away from Gaza; we got about 90 seconds to go into the bomb shelter. Residents in Tel Aviv or the southern part of the country only had about 50 seconds or even less,” he said.
At least one explosion was within earshot of Zong and the students, he said.
“I was scared. One of the first rockets landed about one mile from where we were living, and we all heard the explosion. That very weekend some of us were planning to go on a sea-to sea hike, Dead Sea to Mediterranean sea, and praise God for keeping us from doing so,” he wrote.
In a National Catholic Reporter article Fr. John Paul, rector of Tantur Ecumenical Institute at the University of Notre Dame at Tantur, also said a missile landed “about a mile and a half to the west” of the campus.
Junior Leah Moody, another Notre Dame student in the Jerusalem program, said in an email that Saturday morning came as a sudden shock.
“Everything was very unexpected. Friday was a normal, quiet day. We didn’t know what had happened until we woke up to air raid sirens on Saturday,” Moody said.
At first, she did not understand the scope of the situation, she said.
“I was scared during the missile attacks, but did not realize how severe the situation really was. It quickly became evident that we would probably need to evacuate,” Moody said.
All students were transferred to London to continue their study abroad experience. Moody described what the process was like to evacuate out of Jerusalem.
“Initially, the plan was to try and fly out of Tel Aviv. However, NDI (Notre Dame International) ended up determining that the safest plan was to hire a security team to drive us to Jordan and then fly to London from there,” Moody wrote.
Zong said he felt it was less stressful to evacuate than some people might think. Notre Dame International rolled out an evacuation plan about 15 hours after the first wave of rockets, he said.
The transition from a war zone to London has been strange at times, Moody said.
“I recognize that I am incredibly lucky, still it is strange to be in London now. It doesn’t feel right to just start ‘having fun’ again after leaving a country at war.”
She added that she was grateful for Notre Dame International’s response, saying they “have done everything possible to make sure we are safe.”
To get through the ordeal, Zong said he leaned on his faith and humor to help cope.
“I wasn’t too stressed in the first place. First, where we stayed were fairly safe compared to other regions of Israel,” he said.
This experience has not deterred Moody and Zong. Both said they would like to return to Jerusalem once it is safe to do so. When asked if he would want to go back to Jerusalem, Zong enthusiastically said, “For sure! I haven’t been able to go to Nazareth yet.”
Zong said this experience has “totally changed” the way he looks at politics. He said he now has a “deeper understanding of war and geo-politick” and he is a stronger pacifist as a result.