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R.I. resident in Israel awakens ‘to another devastating chapter in this war’

Liza Burkin, lead organizer of the Providence Streets Coalition, had traveled to Israel for her brother’s wedding. “I am heartbroken for everyone in this land,” she said.

IDF soldiers guard near a waving Israeli flag outside Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where dozens of civilians were killed days earlier in an attack by Hamas militants on this near the border with Gaza, on October 10, 2023 in Kfar Aza, Israel.Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty

PROVIDENCE — Providence resident Liza Burkin traveled to Israel to attend her brother’s wedding, and true to her passion for bicycling as lead organizer for the Providence Streets Coalition, she immediately got a bike and began exploring.

She said she ended up camping near an abandoned outdoor museum commemorating the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 after he signed the Oslo Accords, which attempted a peace process between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“We thought it would be a good place to sleep and read,” Burkin wrote on Saturday on X (formerly Twitter). “Little did we know we would awaken to another devastating chapter in this war.”

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On Saturday, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, which retaliated and declared war. The escalating conflict has already claimed more than 1,900 lives.

Burkin, who posts as “Liza Birch,” said she had been reading a book by Sandy Tolan titled “The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East.

“The pain captured in these pages makes it impossible to be truly shocked by what is happening today,” she wrote. “And yet.”

Burkin described biking past a military base “just as a flood of reservists were arriving to serve, their cars overflowing onto the street.”

“I am heartbroken for everyone in this land,” she wrote. “Beyond angry at the forces of fascism, bigotry, vengeance, oppression, and self-preservation on both sides that have taken the reins and disallowed any kind of dignified coexistence for the last 75 (2,000?) years.”

Burkin said her brother’s wedding would be canceled or delayed. “But I know their fierce love will lead them through this,” she said.

On Sunday, she was at a hotel near Gadot in the Golan Heights.

“We can suddenly hear a lot of bombings, gunfire, and planes overhead,” she wrote. “We believe it’s either training at a base nearby or the beginning of an Israeli assault against southern Lebanon.”

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By Tuesday, Burkin was back in Tel Aviv.

“Holding my little nieces and nephews close,” she wrote. “The sirens went off and we went into shelters twice in the last 30 min.”

When reached by WhatsApp, Burkin explained that her brother is a former Providence resident who lives in Israel and works for a company in Woonsocket. She said the wedding has been canceled, and everyone is scrambling to find a way home.

She said she is not sure when she will be able to return to Providence because all American air carriers have canceled all flights in and out or Israel.

Burkin said she had a message for those back home: “I implore everyone to fill their news feeds and timelines with voices from the region who are seeking peace, and for people not to lose their empathy and humanity for everyone in this land,” she told the Globe.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him @FitzProv.