Amit Beilin navigates dreams and despair in America amidst homeland turmoil

By Nadia Fung

In the shattered streets of Gaza and the tear-soaked alleys of Jerusalem, the heartbeat of humanity is drowned out by the thunderous roar of war.

As the Israel-Hamas conflict unfolds, Amit Beilin finds herself caught in the crossroads of ambition and heartache, torn between the pursuit of her athletic dreams and the harrowing reality unfolding in her homeland.

The Israel-Hamas war goes back decades where there has always been a fight over the holy land.

The death toll for the number of Israelis and Palestinians who have died between October 7 and December 12 has reached nearly 20,000.

Beilin’s soccer career in America began at Flagler College in 2021. The next year, she transferred to St. Leo University to continue her academic and athletic career where she remains.

Beilin is on the pitch playing for Saint Leo GK. Photo taken by Karen Hastings.

October 7th, what was once a sacred Jewish holiday celebrated by thousands will now be known as one of the deadliest days for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

It was almost midnight, Amit lay still in her room trying to get some rest before her game the next day, when her phone lit up with news notifications of bombings and sirens going off back home in Israel. 

The immediate phone call to her mom lasted from 11:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. in the morning, but the feeling of helplessness and misery continued to carry on.

“I was holding it in, I was trying to be strong for her because I don’t know, I’m here and she’s there,” Beilin said.

Luckily, Amit’s parents and sisters are safe, but other family members like her grandmother are in the middle of the city and told her family “I am too old to move, I want to be home, I don’t care to die from this”.

Alone in her thoughts and feelings, she had to try and focus on the only opportunity she had to combine education and soccer.

“I woke up after a long night, and got ready to go to film before the game. I went out of the locker room, and my coach stopped me and was like, “Are you okay,” She said. “And in the moment, I tried again to be strong and not cry and keep it inside. I started to cry everything out of my system the moment he asked me if I’m fine, if I’m okay… I’m not fine.”

From the moment she could walk, to the age of ten she laced up her dance shoes.

“My mother was a dance teacher. And you know, Russian families, it’s like, you need to dance ballet and everything” Beilin said.

Her transition to soccer full-time happened when she was hanging out with friends playing soccer. 

“We started to play soccer and then someone saw me playing with them and asked me to join a women’s team that just started in my city which ended up being coached by the national team coach, ” Beilin said. 

Her choice to become the brick wall in front of the net not only came from her liking the idea of playing soccer and not having to run as much, but she was one of the few individuals who actually liked the pressure of this lone position. 

Beilin playing for the Israel national team. Photo provided by Amit Beilin.

“To know and accept the pressure of being a goalkeeper, even as a kid, really helped me develop as a person as well,” Beilin said. “Like mentally as well, I can say that I’ve been through stuff that regular people will break down like they would not be able to handle and I think it helped me to handle hard situations better than others.”

In an effort to try and bottle her emotions and continue being the strong and resilient person she is, it was only a matter of hours before she broke from the heartache of being in the unknown when it came to the state of her country, friends and family. 

“The not knowing part is terrible, or getting the message about someone you know got kidnapped or killed,” she said.

One of the first terrible messages she received came from a friend who showed her a video of a girl being robbed and kidnapped by terrorists in Gaza. 

Come to find out the girl was the daughter of the Israeli Women’s National team doctor. Seeing her crying in the news, knowing she along with thousands of others do not deserve to go through this. 

With Gaza being only 31 kilometers or 19.3 miles away from Amit’s family’s home in Kiryat Gat, all she could say was “Mom, please be careful”. 

But despite everything going on, she knows there is immense support for her within the St. Leo community and her team, as well as with her Flagler Women’s Soccer family. 

“To know that they’re here for me is enough,” she said. 

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