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Israeli sisters find solidarity and a secure space in collegiate basketball, as they rally together for support

In the days after Oct. 7, in which Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people, Yarden Garzon struggled to eat and sleep. The outbreak of war in Israel and the Gaza Strip was all-consuming to her, as she watched the news from Bloomington, Ind., where she’s a sophomore guard. Yarden, who was born and raised in Israel, worried about her friends, her family, her country. “I think I was more nervous than my mom,” Garzon said. “It was really scary the first week.”

Garzon’s parents have been half a world away from her, staying put in their home in Ra’anana, Israel, an affluent suburb north of Tel Aviv about 50 miles from the war’s epicenter. Still, over the last two months as the death toll has risen, her family has spent time in the house’s bomb shelter. Sirens warning of air strikes pierced the sky.

Of Garzon’s three siblings, only her older sister, Lior Garzon, is also in the United States. She is a senior at Oklahoma State and a preseason honorable mention all-conference forward for the Cowgirls. “This is one of my most important seasons,” Lior said. “I didn’t know what to do. To stay. To go home, be with my family. It was really a question of what to do.”

She stayed. But it has been 82 days since the world shifted for the Garzons. Since then, they have played key roles for their respective schools. Both have started every game and are averaging double-digit points. They’re also dealing with grief.

Growing up, they knew what to do when sirens blared. The sound didn’t ring every day or week — Yarden describes her childhood as peaceful — but Lior says they were always ready for whatever might occur. Her father, Eitan Garzon, recalls a game in which his daughters were playing when sirens went off. Everyone scurried to shelters, but play eventually resumed as normal.


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