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I am a father and a soldier. I have a message for our enemies

To those who sacrifice their own families in order to destroy ours: Fear us. Fear the men who value peace, but are dragged to war
With my son, moments before returning to Southern Gaza in January 2024. (Photo: Hadassa Kahn)

The last few moments. Moments of peace, of love, of home. Fleeting moments, moments that never remain. Moments I had experienced countless times already, too many times.

My bag was packed. My boots were at the door. Uniform hung on the chair, rifle leaned against the table. Nothing to do but wait. We had been expecting an Iranian attack for some time, but who knew what would actually happen. The week passed by, Shabbat came and went silently. And then, the first reports came in: A confirmed launch. War.

For the next few hours we all held our breath, and then the booms began. Some ran to their shelters; others ran to the windows to watch the lights overhead. Some cowered in fear as shockwaves shook their apartments. I did none of these things.

To some, the booms meant definite war. It meant their kids not going to school, or their work being closed. Or flights being canceled. It meant possibly spending days in the bomb shelter. 

To me, the booms meant one thing. I felt it as I stood by my son’s crib, looking down at his beautiful, perfect face. The booms meant that I would once again have to leave him. Leave him to go to a place I might not come back from. I had flashbacks to the first few weeks of his life, when I held him in my arms, uniformed and backpacked. Kissing him goodbye, I turned, tears in my eyes, and walked toward the vehicle that would take me back to Gaza. And here I was again, after two short months home, facing the same heart-wrenching moment. 

How could I possibly explain to him that I was protecting him by leaving him? That I was protecting his mother, and his grandparents? Or his future friends at school? If something happened to me, God forbid, would he understand? Would he forgive me? What do you do when duty and honor tell you to go but your heart screams at you to stay? You tell yourself that nothing in this world matters more than your child but then you willingly leave them. How is that possible?

I’m not special. Fathers all over the country make this decision, and I’m certain it tears them apart, just like it does me. But we go anyway. Most of us come home; to that hug, that kiss, that “I love you,” that smile. But some of us don’t, and the hug waits, the smile disappears.

As another boom hit, my phone rang, and my heart sank. At that moment, I didn’t care about the mission, or the context, or what was at stake; I just wanted to stay. To hold him, to tell him that Abba is here, that everything is ok. But deep down I knew that I couldn’t, and as I answered the call, the countdown of my last few hours at home, the last few hours with my wife and son, began. 

I speak now to our enemies, who sacrifice their own families in order to destroy ours: Fear us. Fear the men who value peace, but are dragged to war. Fear the men whom you’ve forced to leave their families, and who would do anything to return to them. Fear the warriors you have created with your senseless cruelty, with your hate. With your passion for blood and violence.  Fear those who don’t fear you, who see you for what you are. Your atrocities have only strengthened our resolve, your brutality has only fueled our determination. You seek to destroy an unbreakable people, with an unbreakable spirit. We will win this war. We will return victorious to and for our children. And you will not stand in our way. 

* * *

Postscript: My unit is already back home, awaiting further orders.

About the Author
Avi Kahn is a father and husband living in Bet Shemesh. He made Aliyah from Columbus, Ohio in 2015 and served in the IDF as a Lone Soldier in the Paratrooper Brigade. He has fought on multiple fronts in the current war, including Kfar Aza on October 7th, Southern Gaza, and Israel's Northern border.
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