Jonathan Davis
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A Rosh Hashanah kiddush amidst the skies of duty

We're refueling our Sikorsky helicopter when a military rabbi suddenly rushes out to us bringing a glass of wine
A young Jonathan Davis in 1972.
Jonathan Davis during training. (courtesy)

The years roll back, and it’s September 8, 1973. The eve of Rosh Hashanah finds me as a lone soldier in Sayeret Tzanchanim, an elite reconnaissance unit of the 35th Paratroopers’ Brigade. The unit is preparing for a break to spend the New Year with loved ones, filling the atmosphere with camaraderie and laughter.

Yet, fate has other plans. A last-minute request for soldiers to remain on base for routine standby arises. Without family in Israel, I volunteer to stay. Little did I know that this decision would lead to a night of action and a profoundly meaningful moment.

On that Rosh Hashanah, Israel responded to the Munich Massacre by bombing 10 PLO bases in Syria and Lebanon. As Israeli planes bomb Beirut, our army helicopters take flight along the coast, ready to rescue fighter pilots in need. The helicopter I am on, alongside Navy Seals, stands by in case pilots need assistance over land. High on adrenaline, our minds focused on the mission, we lose track of the day’s significance.

Suddenly, an unexpected sight awaits us. A military rabbi rushes out to the helicopter with a glass of wine, challot, apples, and honey. In that extraordinary moment, we remember that it’s Rosh Hashanah and find ourselves reciting the Rosh Hashanah kiddush, standing by the side of a Sikorsky helicopter waiting to be refueled.

The significance of that impromptu kiddush was immeasurable. Here we were, lone soldiers serving the Jewish state, celebrating the Jewish New Year amidst a critical operation. That simple act of sanctifying the holiday spoke volumes about the importance of a Jewish army and left an indelible mark on my heart.

Now, 50 years later, that memory remains crystal clear. As I recall the experience, I can’t help but be moved by the profound symbolism of that Rosh Hashanah kiddush amidst the turmoil of war. A lone soldier, far from family, was embraced by the unity of a Jewish army, a reminder that no soldier stands alone when serving their homeland.

As the years have passed, my appreciation for the IDF and the dedication of our soldiers, including lone soldiers, has only deepened. Their unwavering commitment to safeguarding Israel’s security, be it in the sea, on land, or in the air, is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Jewish people. I take pride in the Raphael Recanati International School’s commitment to their well-being and success. The institution offers a supportive environment where lone soldiers find belonging and camaraderie, recognizing their courage and dedication to serving their country far from home.

As we usher in another year, I pray for continued blessings upon the IDF and our soldiers. May they be protected and guided as they uphold the values and defend the land we hold dear. To all, I extend my heartfelt wishes for a Shana Tova u’Metuka — a year of joy, sweetness, and peace.

About the Author
Jonathan Davis is head of the international school at Reichman University (formerly the IDC) and vice president of external relations there. He is also a member of the advisory board of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism. Mr. Davis also serves as a Lieutenant Colonel (Res) in the IDF Spokesman’s office.
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