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Never truly home – A soldier’s reflections from October 7th

IDF Reserve Paratroopers in Kfar Aza on October 7th; the author is pictured on the right side

Our People have changed. My friends have changed. I’ve changed. I could speak for our entire Nation when I say that we aren’t the same, but for now, I’ll speak as those of us who were there, as the soldiers who fought, who witnessed, who tried to stop it, who cried over people we knew were gone, who we knew suffered. As individuals, lovers of the Jewish people, who saw way too much.

I saw a friend post the other day that for us, every day is October 8th. How true. Those of us that are home…we go through everyday life ‘as usual’; we do our jobs, we talk to our wives, we take care of our children. But a large part of us, if not all of us, is always there. On that day. Always. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not complaining; this was our burden to bear, and there’s a reason for it. This was our mission, a mission we should’ve never had, and we are proud that it was us, that it was “me” who was called. It’s a pride so strong, we feel it in every cell in our bodies, but pride can only take you so far when your heart has shattered beyond repair.

There’s a chapter I remember in ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry, where Jonas comes for his daily lesson but The Giver is in too much pain to teach. He bears too many memories of suffering, of trauma, and he experiences them as if he were living through them at that very moment. A poetic, yet chilling comparison. 

We are The Giver. Blessed with having been involved on that day but cursed with having to hold those memories inside of us forever. Tormented by what we saw but truly tortured by what we didn’t see. What we know happened before we got there, what we couldn’t stop, what we as a nation had allowed to happen. Someone has to do it, someone has to hold those memories, that pain, inside so other people don’t have to. So friends and family can live their lives, happily and normally. That is our curse and that is our privilege.

We never came home. In a way, we never will. A part of us was left behind, on that blood-soaked highway driving down south, or in the destroyed streets of Kfar Aza and Be’eri. When you talk to us, you’re talking to stitched, poorly glued together versions of ourselves. Our smile is still our smile, our laugh is still our laugh, but we’re never too far from that highway, from those streets. From that day. It’s a part of us, forever. 

We have had the unbelievable merit to fight for the Jewish people; as I said, the pride we feel is immeasurable. But it’s a fight that didn’t end when they sent us home. It’s one that we will all continue, and carry with us, for the rest of our lives.

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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