Avi Ganz

The War Chronicles. Day 4….or is it 5? Yeah. It’s 5.

I wrote HERE that I wasn’t ready for commentary and I had no insight.  I may be ready for some of each, but no matter.  To chronicle is to share the facts.  Several people reached out and thanked me for sharing because they felt uncomfortable asking for information beyond “How are you doing?”.  So here I am with another installment of “The War Chronicles…..

After hitting Publish very late on Monday night/Tuesday morning, I headed to bed with my alarm set for 5:15am.  As I lay down I got a text from a new (if we can have school friends and summer friends, can we have wartime friends?) friend in the US who wanted to discuss something related to a shipment of of protective gear from the states.  I said I’d call when I wake up.  At 5:30 I was on the road and hesitated just long enough to consider that I’d be one of very few cars at that time and maybe I should take a more circuitous but technically less dangerous route.  Dangerous because…war.  But there was no time and I’d be on the call with my new friend so I wouldn’t be unneccessarily stressed.  Turns out my would-be attackers were still sleeping and, blessedly, I arrived at shul in Beir Shemesh on time for 6am and after not one but 2 phone calls about vests.  Some people talk about the weather….why can’t I talk about vests?

After Davening, I met my friend the commander (but also the lawyer, campus Rabbi, musician, dad, and all around great guy) who had arrived just hours before from the US.  A minimalist, he brought with him just a small bag and told me “I think I have everything I need in my miluim (reserves) bag”.  Turns out that everything he needs is pants, shirt, hat, socks, and boots.

We headed North towards his base where he’d be checking in and getting processed before joining his unit and his soldiers.  Shortly after we got on the highway, I got a call from the owner of a tactical gear company in Kibbutz Ga’ash.  He said if I want to pick up the order we made yesterday, we could come now.  Waze said it’s more or less on the way, the unit was waiting for their tactical gear, my friend the commander wasn’t in a rush, and I’d never seen a tactical gear warehouse before so…….

It turns out that they had most of the order and that my commander buddy had a gift certificate….for tactical gear…and a helmet and vest because…..war and his students wanted him to look his best….when at war.  So he shopped and I shopped and we loaded the car with shirts and coats and no fewer than 400 pairs of tactical gloves (you know the ones) and Leatherman multitools and flashlights and army green tzitzis and then…..finally…..we got back on the road and continued north.

Since Saturday night, I’d been worried about a friend in Sderot who was in very minimal contact with me then.  I glanced at my phone and saw that she had updated the world (and me) about her harrowing experience since then.  You can see it in this Photo Story here (Thanks Sruli P for putting it to music!).  I couldn’t wrap my head around it and, as a result of what was definitely my lack of experience and quite possibly my refusal to truly internalize that we are at war, I just assumed that the only real danger was rockets and the headache of incessant booms.  Boy was I wrong!  And boy was I glad to learn that their family is safe.  Chasdei HaShem!

We chatted throughout the long drive and every once in a while either he or I would suddenly get somber.  This isn’t just two guys on a road trip.  We are, after all, at war….

We made another stop at a staging area to drop off some of the gear we’d collected at another unit going to war…..and then we hit the road for the final stretch of our drive.  As we got closer to his base, we saw cars lining both sides of the road and my friend said: “Miluimnik Parking Lot.  We are getting close.”

He packed up his gear in a big backpack, took a water bottle from the car, took a smiling selfie with me for his family, and I wished him well before we hugged and he set off to trek to his base.  Perhaps under other circumstances we could drive on to base or at least up to it, but there were too many people crawling everywhere.  “This isn’t an annual training”, I figured.  “It’s war.”

I pulled out of the erstwhile parking lot and made sure spotify was set to keep me awake on the long drive home…..and I was off.

Meanwhile, my kids are more or less stuck at home: one is still hanging out with her friend whose brother’s funeral was the next day (today), another is riding his bike and constantly being told to move his ramps and jumps because the security path he usually uses is now actually being used for security vehicles (because of the war), and others are spending too much time on screens even though they don’t think so.  My wife and my oldest are getting ready to launch an initiative that will match refugees of The South ™ with hosts around the country.  Pretty impressive system if you ask me.  But meanwhile, that’s what they did.

Stores have been closing more or less at sunset and eateries are closed.  Much of their staff has been called up and besides: should restaurants be open during a war?

I went to the one open establishment (the gas station) for a drink with a friend (he had juice.  I had pepsi max) and when there we got to convince a few soldiers to let me pay for their purchases with the help of some money that came in from loving and concerned Jews around the world.  Finally made it through the day and it was time for bed….

Day 5.  This morning, after davening, I thought we could be the first ones to the grocery store which is now only letting in a few customers at a time due to staff shortages….but we were wrong.  Long lines down and around the block meant that we left and went to another local store but that store didn’t have produce because….well you know…..the war…so we managed with what we had and came straight home because my wife had to go find housing and clothing and maybe even some therapy and laundry and….and….and our 18 year old also left… a house of a local stranger ….where she set up a command center of 10 volunteers; each with a computer and phone and lists of names.  And that group spent the next 9 hours!!!

getting people comfortable accommodations and making sure they’ll have what they need until the can be relocated.  That’s right.  These are people.  Yet, we use words like relocated instead of moved.  Today was an onlaught of emotion and dips and ups: we heard back from dozens of grateful soldiers…..spent too much time in doors and on screens…..heard from New Soldiers who wanted New equipment and people looking to supply it.  We took down more of the sukkah and more of the enemy and answered more whatsapps and emails and calls.  We reassessed when students would could or should get here.  We are all getting restless and the bigger ones (like me) aren’t necessarily getting enough done.  We are each trying to contribute but own way:  because war.

Remember our 14 year old who was hanging out with her bereaved friend?  Well that funeral was (finally!) this evening and she has a lot to process.  Any advice?

The day ended rather smoothly but even that just means we gotta figure out a decent plan for tomorrow.

I am exhausted and don’t want to sleep yet because sleeping means disengaging and unlike several of my friends who posted on their social media that they are ready to start to move on…..we are in the thick of things and, like anyone here will tell you: we aren’t up to healing yet so we all try to stay mentally present as much as possible.  But tomorrow is a new day with new ideas about helmets and vests and another (perhaps futile) attempt to get our younger kids into zoom school on time.

And maybe well make it to the supermarket before the line starts and then we’ll get fresh produce and some things for Shabbos.  The truth is that I do have some thoughts and ideas and maybe even insights.  But they would be biased.

I’m just here to chronicle my personal experience.  People have been warm, forthcoming, sharing, and supportive.  Always knew we had it in us.

Layla Tov.

About the Author
Avi Ganz is the program Director of Ohr Torah Stone's Yeshivat Darkaynu. He lives with his wife and five children in Gush Etzion where he plays the blues on his Hohner, and reminisces fondly of his days playing tackle football with the IFL.