A look of disgust on her face, Laurie Tishler Mindlin spoke of bus stops, soccer fields and playgrounds being turned into bomb shelters, and showed photos of a collection of rocket remnants kept at an Israeli police station.
Her voice choked up when she described sitting in the middle of a bus and knowing she might not be able to get out if a rocket hit it.
Tears rolled down her face as she talked about the children she met — scared to come out of their homes, wetting their beds, or picking fights at school for no reason at all.
Mindlin, executive director of the Merrimack Valley Jewish Federation, heard the nightmarish stories when she visited the Gaza border and the Israeli city of Sderot in November.
"I love Israel and I just wanted to connect to my people who are there and are bearing the brunt of it," she said. "Now I have an understanding of the impact of what that experience has on them."
The conflict between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas in Gaza is just the latest chapter in a bloody, decades-old dispute. It's one that many Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire residents are watching closely because of family or religious ties, or both.
Rabbi Karen Landry, spiritual leader at Havurat Shalom in Andover, recently returned from visiting her sister Susan Nirens and her family, who live in Israel.
When Israel began its air strikes on Gaza in late December, there was a feeling that it was coming down hard on Hamas with the message that it was going to protect its civilians, she said.
"The feeling among the Israelis is that we cannot live under constant bombardments," Landry said. "The world was completely oblivious of what was going on in Gaza before this. It really pulls at your heart strings."