IDF commando reveals what his squad needs most now
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By: Jack Cohen
Uncovering Hamas headquarters in tunnels deep under Jabaliya, seizing rockets aimed at Israeli towns in the heart of Gaza City, neutralizing attacking terrorists on the streets of Beit Hanoun, the commando battalions of the IDF’s 551st Reserve Brigade have been at the tip of the spear, battling a horrific enemy for months now. Appropriately dubbed the “Arrows of Fire,” the warriors of the 551st are among the most elite fighters in the IDF. Yet many are still only in their early 20s and just starting out their lives. Among the ranks of these intrepid soldiers is “Avram” (real name withheld per IDF protocol), an observant, third generation Israeli whose maternal grandparents were displaced from Aleppo, Syria, around the time Israel was founded. On his father’s side, Avram proudly recalls his family’s descent from the great Hida, Hacham Yosef David Azulai zs”l.
Avram is also my cousin, a circumstance that allowed for unique access to the situation and mood among the troops on the front lines in Gaza. During a brief reprieve from the fighting, I had the privilege to speak candidly with Avram. My first question was, how can we, in America, continue to help? Can we send more bullet proof vests? Field supplies? Rations?
“Contributions to the army have been very generous,” Avram explained, “from our standpoint, we have all the supplies we need to fight and win this war, with Hashem’s help.”
But the fighting has taken a heavy toll psychologically. “I am only still alive because of great miracles, baruch Hashem. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is protecting me.” But many have not been so fortunate. “There have been numerous loses. Very close friends of mine have been killed and we’ve experienced very difficult tragedies within our regiment. What would really help us now, is having something new and positive to look forward to – something that would help us heal from the trauma of war.”
Avram described how, during a tour in the field, the young men on the front are subjected to sporadic episodes of intense fighting followed by variable periods of calm and reflection. In the midst of fighting, the men quite literally trust their fellow team members with their lives. When the battlefield is quiet, they often discuss the life they wish and pray for beyond the war.
It’s easy to see how having something positive to look forward to is critical for troop morale and is top of mind for Avram and his platoon. “That is where the people far from the bombs and the bullets can really help,” Avram urges. “We have often spoken among each other about how great it would be to take a tiyul (trip) abroad after the war to clear our minds from what we experienced in battle and help us get back to normal.”
For many in our comfortable community, a relaxing vacation during winter break is seen as almost a necessity. How much more so should we regard such a request from soldiers engaged in active combat for months at a time?
After sleeping on the cold, and often wet, unforgiving ground in Gaza, for the young men of Avram’s tzevet (platoon section) even the most basic youth hostel is a serious upgrade and a welcome part of the travel experience. With such modest requirements, the projected travel budget is a mere $1,500 per soldier – even for an extended, multi-city itinerary. For Avram’s tzevet, consisting of 17 commandos, the total fundraising goal is $25,500.
If the initial raise is successful, the campaign will be expanded to the other combat sections.
“You can’t imagine how much looking forward to such a tiyul after the war will help to keep up the spirits of these young men – myself included,” Avram adds.
Contributions for this worthy cause are tax deductible and the campaign is being conducted with zero overhead. Every dollar collected will go directly to soldiers.
Whether it’s a $1,500 contribution to sponsor the entire tiyul for one commando, $100 to sponsor a single meal for the group, $18 for afternoon refreshments or any amount above, below or in between – all donations are symbol of our appreciation of the sacrifices these young men are making for the Jewish nation.
Even those who cannot afford to contribute, can still be of great help by sharing this initiative with their friends and families.
May Hashem protect all the soldiers of Israel, bring the hostages safely home, and bless the nation of Israel with a lasting peace.
To learn more about the successes of the 551st Reserve Brigade, see the links below.
To donate visit the Fundraiser on Paypal.