Snir Dayan has fought for Israel on the streets of New York City and on social media. And now, the 29-year-old has left behind his successful New York business to return to Israel to fight once again in the Israeli Army.
Dayan was watching the news at midnight on October 7 and saw that there had been a Hamas invasion from Gaza. At first, he didn’t think much of it. He had seen attempted incursions when he served in the Israel Defense Forces’ Golani Infantry Brigade on the Gaza border in 2014. He said he was calm at first, and went to sleep, but a few hours later, his phone “exploded” with messages from friends in New York and Israel.
He learned the extent of the Hamas terrorists’ atrocity: 1,200 men, women and children slaughtered, thousands wounded, and 240 taken into captivity in Gaza. Dayan, who has a company that provides personal security as well as a shop selling security equipment in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, was soon giving a speech to raise funds for Israel at an event in Hudson Yards Mall.
“I helped raise $70,000, but I stood there in the middle of this cocktail party and I just didn’t feel right,” Dayan said. Feeling powerless and helpless, he knew he “just had to go back to Israel.”
Dayan called someone in charge of the Israeli Army reserves who informed him that when the army sent out 150,000 emergency induction notices for soldiers a few days after the October 7 attack, 300,000 responded. Since then, the army has mobilized approximately 360,000 reserve soldiers. From New York, Dayan called a good friend who arranged a phone call with Dayan’s former Golani unit. The commander asked a few questions and then said, “Welcome to the reserves, and get here as fast as you can.”
Like thousands of other Israelis who were traveling or working abroad, Dayan returned to fight. He landed in Israel on October 20, and was already in his uniform on the northern border with Lebanon on October 21, fighting against Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy terror army.
“The IDF lost eight soldiers and a lot of soldiers were injured on the northern border, most of them from anti-tank missiles that Hezbollah was shooting,” Dayan explained. “Another thing that we dealt with was explosive drones and attempts of terrorist infiltrations.” Dayan, who had taken up his former position as a sharpshooter, said that despite all the dangers, he had a “big smile” on his face.
“Fellow soldiers told me, ‘you look too happy for someone in a war zone,’ but the helplessness I had felt in New York left me,” Dayan said. As strange as it seemed, Dayan, who is also a krav maga instructor, felt satisfied being in Israel where “I could help take part in defending my country. This is my natural place. This is where I belong.”
Dayan, now stationed with a Golani unit on the coastline in Northern Israel, said that when he’s not fighting on the battlefield, he’s fighting against antisemitic propaganda on social media. He gives people short explanations about Israeli history that are easy to understand. For example, when people accuse Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians, he tells them to look at the numbers.
“There were 200,000 people in Gaza 75 years ago,” he said. “Today there are 2.8 million.”
Or, when people tell him that Jews never lived in Israel before 1948, he counters, “What about Jesus? He is known as Jesus of Nazareth, which is right here in Israel.”
He also has to explain to well-meaning Western liberals that the concept of compassion “just doesn’t exist in the Middle East.”
“In Western society, you think that if you show compassion to someone, they’ll have compassion for you. But compassion is not a currency in the Middle Eastern market. Here, when you show compassion, terrorists feel it will be easier to eliminate you. The only important currency in the Middle East is strength.”
Part of Dayan’s family is from Morocco; one of his grandfathers can trace his roots in Haifa back seven generations. Dayan has lived in New York City since 2015 and has always been active in self-defense for New York Jews. In In 2021, during an anti-Israel protest in front of a Jewish restaurant, Ess a Bagel, he and a friend went out with Israeli flags and were attacked by the demonstrators.
“It could have ended up in a lynching,” Dayan said. But in a strange twist, Dayan was arrested by a New York City policeman even though he was defending himself.
New York today is even more hostile to Israel, he said, and “it’s the same around the world.” At a recent demonstration in Australia, people were shouting “Gas the Jews.” To Dayan, “it’s clearer than ever that Israel is a miracle that must exist for the safety and prosperity of the Jewish people.” But, he says, “We need to keep explaining why we have the right to exist.”
“We live in the Middle East and we’re the only functioning democracy so we have to be the strongest military in the region,” he said. “If not, we won’t survive.”
He said he feels that Israel—and Jews—will have to keep fighting “forever.” But all that doesn’t deter him.
“I’m lucky,” he said. “I was born into a nation of warriors.”