NEW YORK (WABC) -- A New York college student is back home safe after visiting Israel with his family.
Zach Golberg landed in the U.S. early Tuesday morning at Newark International Airport. He is originally from White Plains and attends Yeshiva University in Washington Heights.
"While I am happy to now be in a safer environment, I'd rather be back in Israel. Part of me feels like I've abandoned my brothers and sisters. Also, I feel useless being in the states," Goldberg said. "My friends are all putting their lives on the line, and I'm watching on the sidelines, leaving the country."
Goldberg and his family were in Tzfat at the time of the initial attacks on Saturday. The day started with them celebrating the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah.
Simchat Torah is a joyous high holiday celebrated on the last day of Sukkot. It marks the next cycle of the Torah.
"We went to shul, to synagogue, and I could tell something was off, based on everyone... just their faces," Goldberg said. "They were trying to be happy, they were trying to celebrate the Jewish holiday, but something seemed wrong."
He and his family noticed people around them looked concerned, and others were crying. The holiday is a celebration of the Old Testament, and compared to the night before, Goldberg said there was a clear shift in some people's demeanor.
His entire family was blind to what was happening around them.
"We didn't have access to our phones because it was a Jewish holiday. Eventually, I got to someone who told me what they knew happened," he said.
Israelis were wrapping the seven-day Jewish festival of Sukkot Saturday, when Hamas militants waged a surprise attack on the country.
"It had a toll one me and my whole family. It was tough for us to eat afterwards; it was tough for us to even put a smile on our faces and try to be happy during a holiday," he said.
By Sunday, all of the stores were closed in Tzfat. What is usually a huge tourist town had turned into a ghost town overnight.
"We heard jets throughout the whole day, a couple of sirens in the background," Goldberg shared.
Tzfat is at the northern end of Israel, so Goldberg and his family did not have seek shelter immediately. The threat of war still hits very close to home for Golberg.
Many of his friends are being deployed on the border and have sent mass messages asking people to pray for them, as they fear any moment could be their last.
"I know a friend who was in a five-hour shootout with Hamas. His commander and a bunch of his fellow comrades all passed away. He was in the minority that survived," he said.
Goldberg says that during the majority of their drive to the airport, his family was surrounded by lines of tanks and army missiles on the highway.
They arrived at the airport 12 hours in advance. Within an hour of their arrival, sirens started and everyone ran for shelter in the airport. Goldberg says people were frantically looking for their kids and screaming.
He tried to show strength as his family members cried in fear, he said.
In juxtaposition to many people frantically leaving Israel, Goldberg's family saw many Israeli citizens flying back into the country for reserve duty or to be there with family.
Goldberg says he has family members in Israel who had to sleep in a bomb shelter and have spent most of the past few days sheltering there.
The death toll after the fourth day of fighting is nearing 2,000. Israel has bombarded Gaza as the conflict continues to escalate.