By Raz Newman
It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. I look at the view outside my window, as I’m sipping a hot mug of coffee in my AC’ed apartment in West Hartford. A couple is walking down the street, holding hands. A young family is heading up another street, the dad holding his four-year-old on his shoulder as the mom pets their dog, giving him some water out of a sippy cup.
My phone twits. I keep getting invites from friends. “Let’s go to the beach!” “There’s a sidewalk sale in North Hampton.”
This time, one of my news apps showed in small letters: “Three more soldiers died in Gaza last night.” Then the news feed refreshed itself and I got another twit about David Blutt and Labron James.
And that was that. Three lives, three whole worlds, crushed. A small twit on my iPhone screen for about three seconds.
Three young boys who left behind girlfriends, brothers, sisters, parents, friends, and an entire bleeding and aching nation.
Three boys who will never know what it’s like to go to the university…who will never marry their lovers…who will never see their kids grow up.
In a split second, three young boys became a little news feed for three last seconds.
At the time of this writing, Israel had accepted a humanitarian ceasefire for 12 hours. Now, there are talks of expanding it. But our soldiers are still there. Keep saving lives; keep finding tunnels. “There’s an underground city, beneath Gaza,” says a high ranked officer. There’s a humanitarian ceasefire, yet Hamas terrorists are still snuggled in their tunnels, looking for more soldiers to kill or capture.
Instead of seeing couples holding hands, in the streets of Gaza you can see soldiers walking back-to-back, covering one another. Instead of a father holding his child on his shoulder, there’s a soldier carrying his wounded friend. No Palestinians roaming the streets. Only smoke, ruins of buildings, and animals wandering aimlessly. This is how much Hamas cares for its people.
So, I sit here with my coffee mug, looking at the beautiful people walking the streets of West Hartford. Happy. As they should be. The rituals of life go on, waiting for no one. My heart breaks a little bit more.
How can I help my brothers and sisters from overseas?
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to talk on the phone with my best friend, a combat soldier in an elite combat unit that specializes in searching for and exploding the tunnels.
“It is crazy what’s going on here. I saw things no men should ever see. I’ve done things that will forever keep me awake at night,” he told me. “I didn’t sleep for five days. How can I sleep? About an hour ago, we were shot at with an anti-tank missile.”
“But how’s the moral?” I asked.
“In general, we are all up for the task. We know what we’re doing here, and why, But we’re all very tired and just want to go back home.”
“You have to stay strong, brother. I love you and think about you all the time. I will light candles for you guys today,” I answered.
“Thank you, my friend,” he replied, quietly. “The support that we are getting is amazing. People are coming to the border, giving us food and towels and razors. I got a package with a letter a kid made for us. When I looked at it, I knew exactly why I’m here.”
He got “10 hours of rest” outside of Gaza, so he could talk to his family and get a shower. “You know, I’ve just seen “S” in one of my missions. He’s doing alright, you know him. When I walked by his tank, I felt really protected. I know he’ll have my back.”
And before I could reply, his voice changed as he said that he had to go back in.
What can I do? How can I help my people?
The campers of the Mandell JCC’s Camp Shalom” wrote letters for the soldiers that I am going to send to Israel. My friends and many other soldiers will get them. Others are sending money, so my friends will get a decent ballistic vest and proper boots. This is how we can help. Write letters, donate money.
Let’s all work together, so sometime in the near future Israelis can walk down the street of Sederot and Ashdod, holding hands and enjoying the sunny weekend, instead of laying in improvised beds breathing in the stuffy air of the shelters.
May God bless the brave soldiers and the citizens of Israel. Wherever we are, we stand with Israel, at all times.
Am Israel Chai! The nation of Israeli lives!
To find out how you can help IDF soldiers contact Raz Newman at email@example.com, (860) 231-6333.
Raz Newman is director of Israel programs at the Mandell Jewish Community Center.