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Yishai Friedman

Home from the northern border for 24 hours

I have come home for 24 hours after two and a half weeks guarding the North. As the Jewish people, we mourn for the butchered people of Simchat Torah and us reserve soldiers strive to protect all of us so that such horrors would not repeat itself. As soldiers we have collectedly mourned together, but at the same time, are overjoyed and thrilled by all of your support both financially and emotionally. All of you have donated to our wide array of necessary garments including socks, underwear, t-shirts, tzitzit, hats, gloves, thermal clothing, not to mention the flashlights, pocketknives, and endless meals and snacks you have provided. The list of donations are endless and beyond each donation is a caring mother, father, cousin, friend, Jew and gentile alike that supports our cause to protect us Jews, democracy and our nation of resilience. During our time of sorrow and despair, and in the darkest of times, your light of kindness and cares shines ever so brightly.

Just a few weeks ago our country was torn in social conflicts. Could religious Jews pray in Tel Aviv public spaces? Could the Knesset override the Supreme Court, should the country’s legislation account for Diaspora Jewry who do not vote? These questions were but a few days ago drifting the country apart, leading to a strike of military pilots, civil disobedience and endless rallies and counter-rallies, even cursing at those trying to pray to G-d. All of these debates have proven to be trivial, as right and left we are united ducking from rockets as we seek to protect our borders and rid the world from the terrors of Hamas. As we came to protect our borders you all came to sponsor us, cook our food, take our laundry and care for our well being. As a soldier on the border, I know we are all immensely thankful to you.

Beyond the care we feel emotionally and physically with each package and each visitor, we see the symbolic unity amongst our nation. This same unity and delivering of foods and collection of charity Mordechai decreed in Persia and the entire the entire Jewish nation when we united to be rescued from the genocide and annihilation of Haman in Persia, when our nation was described as “scattered and diverse.” This same unity that Ezra and Nehemiah unified us and brightened our moods as the secular Zionists in his time were unaware even of Rosh Hashana, our new year, and day of Recognizing G-d. Nehemiah too decreed a delivery of food, Mishloach Manot, from person to person to lighten the mood. This unity both saved us from the genocide of Haman, and helped prepare us for the building of the Second Temple, which lasted for 410 years. I hope that this unity and delivery of packages, your mishloach manot, will both unify us to protect us against the Hamas and their allies and help prepare us to be ready for the Temple of Eternal Peace.

I should end my article here in thanking you, because of how grateful we collectively and individually we are to you and how indebted we are to your care. I however beg to ask for two more favors above and beyond the care you continue to support.

  1. Can this unity uphold even after the war ends. We are all dreaming for the day the war will end and we will see our loved ones safely. We dream to not have to worry about our neighbors from across the fence coming to butcher ourselves, our family and our people. We dream to see our fellow soldiers in safety, and to continue to develop our beloved homeland. We still have to resolve our social challenges of Religious Democracy, balance of powers and financial equity. Each issue must be resolved, but I ask for it to be done with dignity and respect and care for each and every one of us regardless of religious and political faction. Can we transfer this vital unity in a time of need and continue it when the threat of Hamas subdues? I know not how to achieve this unity after the war but know of it’s importance.
  2. There is one more binding force that I would like for you to help out with, now in the time of darkness — to keep Shabbat. I and many of the 300,000++ soldiers that were called up on Shabbat Simchat Torah and its subsequent days were unable and continue to be unable properly keep the Shabbat in its traditional manner. We are operating 24/7. I beg you to keep the Shabbat in our place.

I will conclude as I have to head back up north in a few minutes with quoting a passage in the Talmud that I here crying out to us, in these challenging times. Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: If only the Jewish people would keep two Shabbatot in accordance with their halakhot, they would be immediately redeemed, as it is stated: “So said God to the eunuchs who will keep My Shabbatot” (Isaiah 56:4), and it is written after that: “And I will bring them to My holy mountain and will let them rejoice in My house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7)

Once again, I thank you for all of your help and hope that we could take the light that we are using to brighten the darkness and have this light shine brighter and brighter even on better of days. Thank you as I return to the norther border.

About the Author
Yishai is a GIS spatial analyst for Keren Kayamet Leyisrael, to help further Jewish land ownership and development in Israel. On the side he worked as a Madrich and Rebbe for high schoolers in Yeshivat Tichonit Givat Shmuel and for gap year students coming to Israel to learn Torah before their college degrees or drafting in the IDF in Eretz Hatzvi. Periodically on Shabbatot he works as a Shabbat Madrich for the Schuster Heritage House to help spread Shabbat and Jerusalem to Jewish youth from abroad.
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