Temima Silver wasn't conscripted into the Israeli army — she volunteered.
Silver, 21, was born and raised in Ottawa but joined the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) for a stint starting in 2020.
She said the brutality of the Hamas attack on Israel, which she called "psychopathic to its core," convinced her to sign up again.
"These attacks were not complex," Silver told CBC Radio's All In A Day from Tel Aviv. "They were things that one cannot even imagine — that no soldier can even train to do, no soldier would want to do."
Silver was released from IDF service last year but chose to stay in Israel. She now lives in Tel Aviv and is waiting for the call to duty.
Israel called up some 360,000 reservists in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 that killed about 1,400 Israeli soldiers and civilians, wounding thousands of others. About 4,000 Palestinians have since been killed and many thousands more injured in retaliatory attacks, according to Palestinian officials.
Military service is compulsory for most Israelis when they turn 18. Men are required to serve 32 months and women 24.
After their mandatory service, most can be called up to reserve units in the event of a national emergency.
Reserve units fight alongside regular troops in times of war, but Silver said her unit was considered more like "army police" and therefore wasn't conscripted.
So she volunteered.
"I wanted to do something and stand up for [Israel] — physically," she said.
Since the onset of the war, Silver said an "underlying antisemitism" — present even during her childhood in Ottawa — has become increasingly visible.
She equates antisemitism with anti-Zionism, the Jewish nationalist movement to establish and develop a Jewish state in what is now Israel.
Images, video likely motivating volunteers
Houchang Hassan-Yari, professor emeritus at the Royal Military College of Canada, said Canadians volunteering to serve in conflicts overseas may be motivated by either a direct connection to a land and its people, or by a shared cause or value system.
During the Second World War, he said, many people volunteered to join the Allies out of the desire to fight an ideology they opposed — fascism at that time.
"In the case of Israel, it could be the same," said Hassan-Yari, who studies the Arab-Israeli conflict and Canadian involvement in the Middle East.
"They could feel obligated, morally, to go there and support these people who are under a lot of duress."
The emergence of images and video of attacks on civilians is likely another motivator, he said, in particular among those who are predisposed to support Israel.
"All these cases of those who were killed and so forth — that could affect them, their decision and desire to go and help those people," he said.
Smoke and fire rise following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Oct. 14. Israel has been striking targets throughout Gaza since a bloody, cross-border attack by Hamas militants killed more than 1,300 Israelis on Oct. 7. (Ariel Schalit/The Associated Press)
These acts, in many cases perpetrated against innocent young or elderly people, violate international conventions and "any kind of law of conflict," he said.
John Packer, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said the "hyper-emotive" nature of the conflict may interact with the "overlapping identities" of many Canadians.
"There is undoubtedly also … the matter of the coinciding of faith and belonging and state," he said.
Packer, who researches the international protection of human rights, said the role of Israel as a Jewish state means religion is likely a powerful motivator for many volunteering to serve in the IDF.
In a written statement, Global Affairs Canada said the Canadian government does not track the number of citizens who have travelled to Israel to assist in war efforts.
Phenomenon likely increasing, prof says
Relatively high rates of immigration, Packer said, means nearly four million Canadians have at least a dual citizenship.
Because people are migrating more than ever, he added, many are picking up personal or economic linkages all over the world.
The blurring of those allegiances over time, he said, can see personal characteristics such as ethnicity, nationality and religion in conflict within a single person.
"We weren't really presented with the problem, historically, of these allegiances pitted against each other in military terms, but this might be more so," he said.
"I think we're going to see this phenomenon increasing."
'Before I'm a soldier … I'm a human'
For Silver, warring identities comes with her decision to volunteer.
"Before I'm a soldier — or was a soldier — I'm a human," she said. "Seeing death is unfortunately just a consequence of war."
Silver said she believes the IDF is trying to minimize the number of civilian casualties by issuing evacuation warnings but added the loss of some innocent life is, to an extent, inevitable.
"It's hard — it's not, it's not something to be celebrated," she said.
Hassan-Yari said many of those who volunteer to support Israel will not necessarily be joining the front lines of the conflict. Support could instead come "from the back" in the form of medical aid or other roles.
For now, Silver is serving in that capacity. She's volunteering "on the medical side" while she awaits what comes next.
She recognizes the risk of dying in service, but added it's all part of serving in an army that represents not just a country, but a religion as well.
"I don't think that's something that you can completely prepare for, no matter how much you prepare, no matter who you are," she said. "This will break my mother's heart to even hear."