British-Israeli law student Kinneret Hamburger was on holiday with her family in Israel on October 7 when she was woken up by an air raid siren.
She received a message calling her “to base” — just a day before she was due to move into a new flat.
Kinneret, a reserve officer in the IDF, jumped into her car and sped to her army post without even packing her bag.
It was a self-defining moment. “When terrorists declare war upon your people, you have no other choice than fight for your life and everyone else’s,” she tells the JC.
Kinneret’s urge to protect her homeland is deeply intertwined with her own family past.
Her grandfather, John Horn, was an 11-year-old Kindertransport refugee to Britain from Berlin, and that story — a family member rescued from monsters by a free, democratic society — is key in her drive to protect the Jewish state.
“My grandfather’s parents were murdered in the Holocaust and he was rescued from certain death on the Kindertransport,” she says. “Britain gave him a future. British people put their lives on the line to save as many children as possible for the sake of humanity," she added.
Like many Israelis, Hamburger has lost friends in the October 7 attacks. One, a soldier called Daniel Castiel, was killed fighting terrorists. Before he died, says Kinneret, he sent his brother a voicenote asking his family not to sink into grief.
Kinneret says that she does need to mourn his loss — but has not yet had the chance. Grief, she says, gets in the way of her present task: helping Israel defeat terrorists.
“Daniel also worked as counsellor at Bnei Akiva [Zionist youth camp]. Once this is over, we will have all the time to honor those who passed,” she says.
Born and raised in Jerusalem, Kinneret, 23, is the daughter of Carl, 56, an economist from Manchester and Marion, 54, a textile engineer from London.
“My parents truly believed in building a home and raising children in the Jewish State. They felt that in Israel they could live free from fear of the antisemitism they experienced in the UK,” Kinneret says.
Her parents dated in England, broke off their relationship and then reunited after moving separately to Israel, where they got married and had four children. Two of Kinneret’s brothers are also currently serving in the IDF.
Kinneret’s attachment to the British Jewish community remains strong, and she has relatives living in Cricklewood, North London and Manchester.
“My thoughts are with the Jewish community of Britain. I applaud you for not giving in to fear and standing tall,” says Kinneret. “I pray for Britain to once again stand on the side of humanity, alongside Israel and the Jewish people, and against pure evil.
“Beyond the destruction of the state of Israel, this evil seeks to eradicate Jews worldwide, to erase Jewish identity entirely and the aspiration for a Jewish homeland. Then, they will pursue the destruction of Western civilization,” she says.
Kinneret said she is fighting for the 1,200 Israelis — men, women, children, the elderly and even babies — brutalised on October 7, as well as for the nearly 240 hostages held in Gaza.
“I call on officials worldwide, human rights organisations and women and children protection groups to take an unequivocal stand, condemn these atrocities, and demand the release of Israelis held in Gaza,” she said.
Kinneret longs for life the way it used to be.
A student at Reichman University, Kinneret, who grew up in Bet Shemesh, she previously worked at the Herzliya Municipality and The Middle East Forum, a US-based think tank promoting American interests in the region and defending Western values.
Kinneret had been due to move into a new apartment on October 8, but says normality will only return after Israel destroys Hamas.
“I want to get back on campus, I miss my friends and the law. But to do these things, I need to be alive. The world needs to understand that we want to continue living peacefully in a liberal world based on Western democratic values,” she says.
When away from her loved ones, Kinneret says the support she receives from overseas keeps her motivated.
“It is heartwarming to see the love and support coming from Jews in Britain. This confirms the outstanding link between the diaspora and the state of Israel,” she says. “Mark my words: We will win this war. Jews, Israeli Arabs, Druze and Christians who fight among us will protect the Jewish homeland.”