Rachel Gottlieb

Israel at War: The Unsung Heroes

Sunset over Bet Shemesh, Israel, 15 October 2023
The Iron Dome against the setting sun, October 15, 2023 (Photocredits: Author)

This war has been quite the education for me. I’ve learned a lot. Some of the things I’ve learned are things that never would have dawned on me might be something to know if not for this war. For example, how to distinguish between the sounds of a Hamas rocket, the Iron Dome deploying, or an Israeli airstrike. They’re all explosions, but they sound different, and if you pay attention, you can actually tell the difference. Who knew that was a skill to be had. Or just generally about weapons and weaponry. I’ve never had my head buried in the sand, but there’s a vast gulf between what I knew four weeks ago and what I know now. I’ve learned, too, as we all know, what it feels like to live in the middle of a war, and the sacrifice it takes from all of us on all fronts to make sure that are we are all doing our parts in fighting this fight. I’ve learned a lot about myself, too, like what it takes to continue living in the face of fear.

So I’ve learned a lot. And while I’m always happy to learn more and know more (because, yes, I live in a state of perpetual curiosity), I think I would have been very, very okay with learning all of this under different, more peaceful circumstances. One of the things that I did happen to learn under more peaceful circumstances, though I’m learning more and more about it now over the course of this war, is of a unit in the Israeli army that is, for lack of a better term, the extraction unit. As in, the job of those soldiers is to take any casualties or, God forbid, fallen soldiers from the battlefront and transport them to safety.

It makes sense, if you think about it. Combat soldiers are busy fighting. The guys in tanks are lumbering around, making noise. Reconnaissance soldiers are sneaking around, doing their thing. So someone has to be in charge of making sure that if a soldier is injured, he has a way back to safety. And that someone is this unit. They do it quietly, without fanfare, because that’s their mission. That’s their job. And I don’t know what the unit is called. But I’ve given this unit a name in my mind that I don’t think is too far off from what they should be called, if they aren’t already.


The soldiers in this unit have been living through a nightmare since day one of this war. When the reports started coming out that there were hundreds of people slaughtered, that there were people taken captive, that there were soldiers killed, that there were bodies waiting over the border in Gaza, we were all horrified. Horrified. And these soldiers, who have spent their careers training for a job they hoped and prayed they would never have to do, when they got the call, they changed from their Shabbat garb into their uniforms, drove down to the border, and began working. And they have been working ever since.

It’s been four weeks. Imagine four weeks of living with that nightmare. And the shape of the nightmare has changed, too, because now they’re pulling soldiers out from under live fire from deep within Gaza, and so yes, the kibbutzim are cleaned up, but these guys still have work to do. Their job is not nearly over. They were the first ones in and will be the last ones out. Such a job, such a task, is genuinely impossible to fathom. I won’t go into detail for you, but trust me when I say that you and I and all of us cannot imagine what they have been dealing with. And, frankly, one of my friends who is in that unit has expressed, more than once, that he doesn’t know how he does it.

Truth be told, I also don’t know how they do it. I don’t really know how they have that kind of strength, that mental fortitude, to take on such a task. I know that I cannot even remotely imagine what it is that they have to do and what it takes to do it. But I have an idea. Not any idea of what they go through, to be clear, but just an idea of how they do it.

Because the way I see it, they are strength personified. They are the eternity of the Jewish people in this one unit, the Heroes unit. They are dedicated, wholly and completely, to making sure that every single member of our extended Jewish family is cared for in life and in death. They are every single ounce of our collective strength distilled into this group of soldiers who, day after day after day after day, live with the nightmare of the last four weeks and the continuation of what is to come. They are thousands of years of martyrdom and the strength that it takes to be dedicated to something greater than yourself gathered together in a group that continues to march forward, in spite of everything they have seen.

They are Heroes.

And I bring them to your attention now because, well, I think you need to know about them. I think you need to know who it is who is caring for the eternity of the Jewish people. I think you need to know who it is who is ensuring that every single one of our soldiers comes home. I think you need to know who it is who takes care that if, God forbid, a soldier should fall, he should be taken home with the care and dignity that befits our brothers, our husbands, our cousins, our sons.

I think you need to know who it is who we need to look up to.

And one more thing: Please pray for them. Pray that they should continue to have the strength to fill their mission. Pray that they can continue marching forward every single day. Pray that they come out of this nightmare intact, in body and mind and soul. Pray that they maintain the core of who they are, that they don’t lose themselves in the horrors that they have seen.

Pray for them, because they are our Heroes.

Please continue to pray for us, and for the following soldiers, especially:
עזרא צבי יוסף בן אריאלה פנינה
יעקב זכריה בן אריאלה פנינה
אליהו סִינַי בן ביילא רבקה
נַתַּן בן דבורה אסתר
דוד אלכסנדר בן דבורה אסתר
אלכסנדר בן שרה אלישבע
ראובן אליעזר בן אביגיל אסתר
בועז כָּלֵב בן יפָה מרים
יצחק אייזיק בן פריידא
אהרן בן רחל ברכה
חובב בן דבורה אסתר
שמחה בן הינדא ברכה

כי ה׳ אלקיכם ההולך עמכם להלחם לכם עם אויביכם להושיע אתכם. ה׳ ישמור צאתך ובואך מעתה ועד עולם

About the Author
As a combination logophile and Israel-o-phile, Rachel's fingers itch whenever something needs to be shared about Israel, particularly as it relates to the Diaspora. Her credentials include a Master's in English and many years experience as a high-school English teacher, which covers the writing part, and being a card-carrying member of the Jewish nation, which covers the Israel part. Although she currently resides in Suffern, NY, her heart has long since been stolen by Israel herself, and her mind is constantly preoccupied with the capital of the Jewish people.