It is Shabat in Israel.  I am sitting in a very safe place in my beautiful home in New Jersey, USA, and I am thinking about my brothers-in-arms in Israel, who are now either in Gaza, or along the border with Gaza. They are either risking their lives at this time, or resting, perhaps for an hour of sleep that will be interrupted shortly by someone saying that it’s time to go.

They are perhaps drinking coffee, and maybe they are drinking water from a canteen on their ammunition belt, that along with all of the other equipment they are carrying weighs them down because they are carrying  some 70 lbs of equipment in addition to their weapon.

They are thinking about home.  Maybe this is their first call up to reserve duty.  I had many such call ups.  Maybe this is a call up that came when the baby at home just started to crawl.  Maybe it will interrupt a planned vacation with the family to Florida to go to Disneyworld.  My brothers-in-arms, I pray and I hope that you will stay out of harms way.  I pray and I hope that whatever you might encounter, as did I when I was in the Gaza strip for so many of my call ups, you will come back, safe, unharmed.

We saw it all when my platoon served in the Gaza strip!  We saw a grenade rolling down a narrow alley towards us.  We saw a young Palestinian with a huge butcher knife on his way to murder his brother to save the honor of the family.  We saw the rock throwers who tried to disrupt the tribunal I guarded when Yassin was put on trial there.

I am with you, my brothers-in-arms, because you are now protecting my children who all live in Israel, and you are protecting my grandchildren who live there.  I am grateful to you, because you are performing the greatest of Mitzvot, in that you are ready to put your lives in harms way so that our people will live a life without threat of annihilation.  You are, as you have too many times in the past, creating a shield, a huge protective shield so that our lives in Israel might achieve some semblance of normalcy.  You are creating that shield with your service and with your very lives, and I pray, and hope, again and again, that you return to your families, your parents, your children, your sisters and brothers, unharmed, and safe.

From this distance of years I can now understand the worries of my parents when I served.  First as Golani, during the Yom Kippur War, and then as a tank commander in a platoon assigned to the Gaza Strip and points south, I understand, and so it is now my turn to worry, and to hope and to pray.  May you all return safely and unharmed.  Shabat Shalom!