On the morning of Oct. 7 in Jerusalem, Steven Galitzer was preparing to go to synagogue with his family when they were surprised by the sounds of sirens. As observant Jews, they avoided the use of technology until the following day, but in cafés across the city they began to learn the news: Hamas carried out the deadliest attack on Israeli soil in decades with over a thousand civilians killed or captured.

Since returning to the U.S. the following day, the Yeshiva University sophomore has struggled to grapple with his grief and fear as the Israel-Hamas war escalates — for his own community and for Palestinians under siege.

“I feel for the people, the Palestinians who live in Gaza,” he said. “It’s a shame that their own government…uses weapons of terror against the people of Israel and essentially uses their own people as, like, casualties. It’s a shame. I do feel for them.”

The sophomore is part of a campus community in a state of mourning and profound shock. Most students at the modern Orthodox university have ties to Israel and have not been untouched by the current conflict. Over a thousand students study in seminaries in the country and in the university’s Jerusalem campus, university president Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman wrote in an online message to the campus community.

The university created counseling services for grieving students and has stepped up community events, including unity prayers and fundraisers. At the same time, it has affirmed its support for Israel, sharing prayers for the Israel Defense Forces on social media.

More than 1,300 Israelis have been killed since Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct. 7, the deadliest attack on Israeli soil in decades, including some 260 concert-goers at a music festival in the desert.

Over 80 student groups and athletic teams condemned the attacks by Hamas “as well as statements to the effect that the slaughter, rape, abduction, and mutilation of Israeli civilians and foreign nationals by Hamas terrorists can be blamed on Israel.”

Calling the attacks “barbarism,” the groups continued in the open letter published last Tuesday:

“We mourn those who have been slaughtered and brutalized. We pray that God ensures that justice be served to those who spilled the blood of innocents. We pray that we may soon see peace.”

Though many of Yeshiva’s students are not Jewish, the university serves as a safe harbor for Jewish students, without the pro-Palestinian protests that held Israel responsible for the attack that have embroiled Columbia, New York University and Brooklyn College

Ahead of an expected ground invasion of Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces, which by Sunday already claimed the lives of 2,300 Palestinians including children and displaced an estimated 423,000, students were holding hope that peace could one day be achieved.

“I trust that the IDF are only attacking places where rockets have been fired or attacks have been ongoing to protect the people of Israel,” said Galitzer. “I just hope there will be peace soon.”

Adding to the unease is the sense that many students feel they “don’t have all the details of what actually happened” leading up to the Oct. 7 siege, including why the Israeli government was seemingly caught by surprise, said another sophomore, who identified himself only by his first name, Yair. Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv over the weekend to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis.

At the Yeshiva’s Washington Heights campus, students have found comfort in unity events held jointly with the school’s Murray Hill-area women’s campus, and by hosting fundraisers for Israeli relief efforts, said Paul Meltzger, also a sophomore.

Focusing on ways to aid has “helped boost morale” among students, said Meltzger, whose brother and cousins in the West Bank were called up to serve in the army.

The death toll continues to climb at the close of the first week of the Israel-Hamas war. On Thursday night, the IDF gave a 24-hour notice to 1.1 million Palestinians to leave northern Gaza in anticipation of a bloody ground invasion, amid a “total blockade” of power, water, food, fuel and medicine to the territory.