WESTCHESTER COUNTY (PIX11) — A Westchester family is distressed as their son returned to Israel to defend his country amid the ongoing conflict with Hamas militants.

Emily Herzfeld is grappling with heartache for her son, Yonatan Herzfeld, who is fighting in the Israel defense Forces following the attack on civilians by Hamas. 

“It was a terrible feeling to know that he’s going to risk laying down his life to protect our right to our Jewish ancestral home,” Herzfeld said.

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Yonatan, who lives in Israel, was visiting family in Mount Vernon for a few weeks during the Jewish holidays when the violence erupted. He got the call from his commander that his reserve unit had been activated and immediately boarded a flight to Israel. 

“He feels that duty to protect our safety living in our sovereign land, and he’s scared. You have to have this conversation with your own child. They don’t know if they’re coming back,” Herzfeld said.

Now emotions are running high for his parents, who worry if he’ll return home.

“It’s gut-wrenching,” said William Herzfeld, Yonatan’s dad. “I mean, no parent should have to face the possibility of losing a child, and that’s what we are facing.”

As tensions escalate in the Middle East, claiming the lives of more than 2,000 people, the community gathered in Boro Park Thursday for a prayer service. In a powerful show of unity, thousands of people filled 14th Ave. to stand with Israel and pray for peace. Alexander Rapaport was among the crowd praying for his family stuck in Israel. 

“We’re praying for peace, and let’s be clear, there is a wrong side in this barbarism, and there is a right side, and we pray that people choose the right side,” Rapaport said.