Last year was the year of the soldier. This past summer during “Operation Protective Edge” our country found itself in the midst of yet another “War without choice” battling for our very hearth and home. Right across the political and religious spectrum we were all united behind the youngsters in the IDF. These brave boys and girls who were putting their life on the line for the safety of our homeland and the future of the Jewish people.

As the missiles rained down on Israel, politics (with the exception of Balad MK Haneen Zoabi) were put on the backburner as we prayed for and enveloped our soldiers with our love.

Troops around Gaza and manning Iron Dome batteries were swamped with supplies by a grateful nation. The face beneath the helmet of the selfless teens became the face of our Zionist dreams and hopes. I vividly recall listening to a new Olah (immigrant) from France being interviewed upon her arrival to Israel and asked if she was scared. She answered that everywhere Jews are threatened. The difference is that here in our own country we can fight back and defend Jewish honour and dignity.

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“Heroes of Israel” Photo (c) 2015, T. Book

The tragic news of the death in combat of two Chayalim Bodedim (“Lone Soldiers”) Max and Sean during operation “Defensive Edge” and the subsequent outpouring of both grief and admiration highlighted this small but important group of soldiers within the IDF. They were two of the few thousand “Lone Soldiers” in the IDF. Those brave ideologically motivated and selfless individuals who leave the comforts of their homes and family in the western world and come to serve our Jewish homeland in the most meaningful way.

The local community where I live took our Iron Dome battery defenders under its wings. There was a constant flow of people bringing food and company just to show our appreciation and support. I recall chatting with a young female operator and asking her how she felt about living in relatively primitive conditions coupled with tedious hours of guard duty and intense hours of being on duty. Her answer illustrates why we Israelis in our homeland will never fold and will stand strong and proud with an iron will to fulfill our age old yearning to be a “free people in our land,” despite the murderous intentions of our enemy (see Hamas charter). This young girl, with her rifle and ammunition webbing strapped on, looked at me directly in the eye and said:

I am proud to be able to be able to perform such a meaningful service to my country defending the citizens of this city. All the hardships I endure pale in comparison to the important work my comrades and I are doing here for our country and our families.”

It is heart-warming in these times to meet these special, selfless and proud Jewish young people, who come to give and not to take, and who represent all that is good about the miraculous times we live in. After almost two stateless millennia we live in a fortunate era where we are in charge of our own destiny in our own land and we have good people to show us the way. We live in a fortunate generation where Jews can once again defend their land and people and are in charge of their own destiny. The Induction Oath of the IDF states:

I swear and obligate myself on my word of honour to remain loyal to the State of Israel, its laws and its legitimate administration … and to devote all of my strength, and even to sacrifice my life, in the defense of the homeland and the freedom of Israel.”