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Alum caught in conflict in Israel

Canaan Estes
Kinkaid alumnus Mr. Canaan Estes (right) with his friends in Israel; he was in a Young Judaea gap year program.

When Kinkaid alumnus Mr. Canaan Estes, ‘23, flew to Jerusalem, Israel, for his gap year before college, he didn’t expect to be escaping a warzone some months later.

Mr. Estes had been participating in the Young Judaea Year Course, a Jewish educational program in Israel, before attending Brown University.

“I spend my fall semester in Jerusalem taking classes in history, religion, politics, and Hebrew,” he said. “In the spring, I have an internship and live mostly on my own with my friends in Tel Aviv. That was the plan, at least.”

When he first heard rockets at 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 7, he was in Tzfat, in the northern part of Israel, celebrating the holiday of Simchat Torah. He said he didn’t pay much heed to the firing. 

“Rockets are a common thing here, so we didn’t really understand the severity of it until later we got reports about breaches into Israel,” Mr. Estes said. “Once we found that out, we were terrified.”

The Year Course program worked to move students away from areas of conflict despite the desire to not cancel the program. Young Judaea has been running for nearly 70 years and has never once canceled its Year Course despite conflicts such as the Yom Kippur War, Lebanon War or the Intifadas

“The program has been helpful in getting us to safe places. We have been very fortunate for that,” Mr. Estes said. “However, the program wanted to keep carrying on in its location and it’s still a little jarring to try and do that. They are stressed — as are we — so it’s been a mix of success.”

Though Mr. Estes and his peers were initially far from the Gaza attacks, rumors that the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah would join forced the Year Course to evacuate south to Jerusalem. 

“The call was a good one as Hezbollah started firing things into Israel the next day,” Mr. Estes said. “Jerusalem is safe because so much of the city is shared with the Arab population…Still, we were in and out of bomb shelters a few times.”

Students were confined to their dorms and not allowed to leave campus. They scrambled to decide whether they wanted to leave the country on one of the few departing flights or stay. 

Mr. Estes’ family chose to fly him out to Europe to wait out the conflict for some weeks.

“Israel is supposed to be our home for the next year; having to leave now feels like admitting defeat,” he said. “I’ve been with my closest friends so far during the war. They have been my rock. Now that I’m leaving them, I’m not sure what I’m gonna do without them.”

Mr. Estes was in an airplane on the tarmac at the time of writing this story. Though he was hopeful, he understood the probability of his airplane taking off was low. 

“Many flights get canceled because of incoming rockets, and few airlines are willing to take the economic risk of cancelation,” he said.

Mr. Estes said the Kinkaid community has been a source of support at this time.

“Countless people have reached out to me expressing their concern and prayers for me,” he said. It’s been really nice to see that kind of response, but it’s also incredibly overwhelming.”

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About the Contributor
Eshaan Mani, Editor-in-Chief
Eshaan Mani serves as the editor-in-chief of The Falcon. This is his fourth year on staff. When not 'journalizing,' Eshaan is championing World Update Club and South Asian Heritage Club, managing his wellness website WellBase, shooting or watching films, listening to Bollywood music, spending time with friends on campus, or playing an Indian drum called the dhol. 

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    Raime EstesOct 11, 2023 at 2:06 pm

    This is my son. He didn’t tell me during all the times that I spoke with him at the airport today and while he was waiting on the plane that he did this interview. Canaan and his twin brother, Brauston, have showed strength and composure beyond my belief the past 5 days. My heart is so full.