Although optimistic that some day their children will not have to pick up weapons against surrounding enemies, four Israeli soldiers said they were proud to defend their country in the recent offensive.
The four soldiers, each serving in medical roles, appeared Oct. 20 in a parlor meeting at the Monroe home of Dorothy and Eddie Thompson, which raised more than $15,000.
Their appearance was arranged by the New York-based Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and cohosted by Frieda and Leonard Posnock, also of Monroe.
“Supporting Israeli soldiers, which for us is a concern, is in Israel a necessity,” said FIDF New Jersey director Howard Gases. “Given what is going on in the world, without a strong Israel we’re in trouble.”
Gases, an East Brunswick resident, said the organization is looking to expand its presence in Middlesex County. On Oct. 6, it held another such program at the East Brunswick home of Rick and Cindy Rollman, which raised $20,000.
The four soldiers were traveling to meetings throughout the tristate area and Ohio during their week-long stay. The NJ Friends of the IDF will also hold its 10th annual gala Saturday evening, Nov. 8, at the Meadowlands Hilton in East Rutherford.
Two of the four soldiers, who all served in Operation Protective Edge this past summer, are reservists and two were “lone soldiers” with no family in Israel.
“We’re lone soldiers, but we’re not alone,” said Elle, who made aliya from Perth, Australia, and is a first sergeant and paramedic assigned to a combat engineering battalion. The IDF requested the last names of soldiers not be published.
“The FIDF makes sure we have someone to spend Rosh Hashana with,” she said. “They help in paying for an apartment or living on a kibbutz with other soldiers.” She said that after Operation Protective Edge, the FIDF brought parents of the lone soldiers to Israel.
Elle made aliya after high school. She was one of the few women to go into Gaza during this summer’s military action, accompanying a unit assigned to blow up terrorist tunnels.
“I even got to blow up a tunnel,” said Elle, who said she is thinking about making medicine her career after her service. “It was very exciting.”
Tal, a lone soldier originally from Beverly Hills, Calif., said he saw both fear and excitement in the eyes of his friends as he treated casualties.
“I hope one day our sons and daughters and their sons and daughters won’t have to be drafted to be in a war,” said Tal, a sergeant and combat medic now living in Ramat Gan. “We were drafted in a war so hopefully one day they won’t have to be.”
Although he made aliya, Tal said, he is considering returning to the United States to attend New York University for a degree in communications.
Eliran, a captain living in Yavneh outside Tel Aviv, finished his active duty and served as a reservist in Operation Protective Edge. He was responsible for 40 soldiers who conducted medical evacuations of wounded soldiers and Gazan civilians to Israeli hospitals.
Those Gazans, he said “were shocked. The Israeli army is very, very ethical. Sometimes we risk our own soldiers just because we don’t want the Gazan people to be hurt.”
After finishing his regular service, Eliran received an IMPACT! scholarship from the FIDF, which provides a four-year scholarship to disadvantaged soldiers in exchange for 130 hours of community service. He completed his volunteer commitment, but continues to work with physically disabled children.
Eliran said serving was a necessity to keep Israel safe, but remains optimistic about the prospects for peace, telling the gathering, “I don’t want my kid to be in the army.”
A fourth soldier, Brit, four years ago served as a commanding officer in a coed combat unit. For the recent operation, she was recruited back into service as a mental health officer. In between, she earned a degree in social work, also through the IMPACT! program.
The Arad resident treated soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and other combat-related issues.
“I think any one of us would serve again and again,” said Brit. “But my hope for the future is that there will be peace between us and our neighbors. But the reality is that peace is hard work and we have to keep working at it.”