Staff Sgt. Noy Leyb, a 32-year-old native of Calgary and reservist in an elite paratrooper unit was in New York City, where he has been launching a tech startup when he started getting messages at 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 about Hamas’ surprise attack and the ensuing massacre.
“I obviously did not sleep that night and it did not take me long to try and look for a flight home, he said. He booked a flight the next morning, on Saturday, Oct. 7, and arrived in Israel the next evening.
A veteran of three years of active duty, during which he served on the borders of Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, Leyb returned to Israel annually to do his reserve duty. His decision to return this time as a reservist, was hard to explain to others.
“I have all my other brothers from my unit and my team and the rest of the army serving and if they are serving, of course I am going to serve,” he said.
Leyb also created a WhatsApp group to assist other reservists trying to return. “I am still working on trying to reimburse those flights and help other ones pay for them.”
After arriving in Israel, the first thing he did was to take the train up north to visit his grandfather and parents.
“I came and said hello and goodbye,” he said before reporting to the army.
Andrew Geller, who lives in Jaffa, was in Toronto helping his father recover from back surgery.
The religiously observant 36-year-old learned about the Hamas attack when his sister printed an article and left it for him, since he did not use his phone over the Simchat Torah holiday. He had a ticket to return mid-October, but decided to return sooner than planned.
“I was at a Thanksgiving dinner (Oct. 9) and I just realized, why am I here? I need to go.”
It was no simple journey returning from Toronto to Tel Aviv, after a majority of airlines canceled their service to Israel in the wake of the war’s announcement.
Eventually, he was able to return via a circuitous 24-hour journey that took him from Toronto through London, and Dublin, and then finally to Israel.
When he reached his destination, he found that the three bags he packed with supplies requested by soldiers in Israel hadn’t arrived yet.
Geller’s family was not initially on board with the decision to return, but they quickly saw there was no convincing him, so they helped him buy the gear he brought back to Israel and posted on social media about him.
“People were just coming to the door and giving me cash too… Everyone wanted to help in any way that they could,” he said.
Even before he returned to Israel, Geller was able to help a childhood classmate from Toronto, who is currently serving as an IDF reserve soldier, locate a requested pair of boots, watch, and headlamp.
Geller traveled straight from the airport to join a group of friends in Tel Aviv who are organizing the logistics of providing reserve soldiers around the country with essential items.
“If you can support our group of friends that have been supplying soldiers or anybody else, the support is sorely needed right now, and every little bit counts.”