Letter From an IDF Soldier in Gaza
The following is a letter written by a 24-year-old who grew up in suburban Maryland, to his family. He served in Israel serving in the Israeli Defense Forces as a sergeant in the Givati Brigade. He is one of hundreds of American volunteer soldiers in the IDF known as “lone soldiers.”
Those of us on the front lines know to ignore the international news.
As antisemites everywhere begin to distort the truth, blame Israel for acting disproportionately and with disregard for Gazan civilian life, some outright say we are monsters and commit genocide.
It becomes essential for every decent human being in the world to understand what the IDF is, and the moral fiber of which we are made.
I was having breakfast at a family friend’s house when I got a text telling me to come back to base as soon as possible.
I returned to base on the other side of the country within a couple of hours to receive orders. We were on high alert on the Gaza border. Hamas started shooting rockets again and continue threatening terror attacks within Israel.
Around me were soldiers from all walks of life: secular Tel Avivians, Ethiopians, Kibbutzinks, religious Jews from the West Bank, Americans, and city kids from Jerusalem. We were all together in this fight to defend all the citizens of Israel - Jewish, Arab, Christian, Muslim, of every walk of life, color of skin and country of origin.
As we spend our every ounce of energy guarding the Gaza border with Israel, we are blessed with donations of food, clothing, and toiletries from Israelis and Jews all around the world. Donations being made by everyone wanting to give to the war effort, and the support letters and children’s drawings we received made us smile.
As the weeks continue and the rocket fire threatens our sanity and our spirit, we the soldiers prepare for a ground operation.
We enter Gaza with the mission to destroy the terrorist centers, disable their network, stop their infiltrations, take out their elaborate tunnel infrastructure and stop their ability to continue carrying out attacks on settlements in Southern Israel.
We would have rather been home with family and friends like normal kids our age in other countries; eating Mom’s cooking, playing guitar, going out to a bar with friends, spending a day on the beach. None of us wanted war, but when Israel was under attack we were proud to be able to defend the country we love.
Once in Gaza we were met with deserted villages, booby-trapped with explosives.
The first week we did not see a single soul, only the traps they had left for us. We slept in an empty house and made the place into a fort. The commanders gave orders to do what we needed to make the house safe but nothing more. We were warned not to take anything from the house. Thirty of us slept in one room in a house.
My friends talk about how worried their mothers were, the messages received from friends and family, and what they were going to eat when they got out. During our downtime we draw pictures on paper scraps, read, sing uplifting songs and prayers - religious and nonreligious together as one, Jews and non-Jewish soldiers in the IDF together in our cause to fight terror and win our war of peace.
One day a few Palestinian men tried to come to where we were posted. We took them inside and talked with them.
One of the sons was affiliated with Hamas and was sent to interrogation but the father seemed to be an innocent man. He said it was hard to keep track of what all of his children were up to. He said before relations between Gaza and Israel went bad he used to work in Israel in Petah Tikvah. He said he used to make good money and from that was able to afford the nice house. We talked about a hummus restaurant in Petah Tikvah, a shakshuka restaurant in that area, a place we both loved to hike in. We heard each other and spoke with one another as human beings.
Yes, not all Palestinians are terrorists. Many want to live in peace, some wish they could openly support Israel's effort to eliminate the control of the terror organizations from among them. But we also know that they are afraid for their lives to do so... And at least these brief exchanges can help us all believe in the good in the world.
We spotted a Palestinian teenager walking close to the neighborhood, a place where the Gazans were warned to leave. Our company commander went out with three other men to take him in and interrogate him and, using the little bit of Arabic he knew, tried to confirm if the teenager was a threat, since so many terrorists today are between the ages of 12 and 17... But no. He was looking for food for his family who was in the next neighborhood over, he was hungry, and he said he knew that only Israeli soldiers actually had the heart to care about the common people.
The company commander sent his radio control operator into the house. He gathered the food supply intended for the soldiers and put it into a cardboard box, homemade goods, cans of olives, corn, chickpeas, beans, and tuna. On his way back to the commander he passed the front gatepost. I was on duty with a man named Hadar. We had just opened a pack of gummy worms we had gotten from a donation of sweets from Israel. We put the gummy worms in the cardboard box for him to carry out with him - something sweet to raise their spirits. The commander gave the teenager the box and sent him home.
As we sat in the house later in the day munching on bread, the company commander reassured us we’d have a resupply in 12 hours. We couldn't help but wonder if our generosity mattered, or if the young people of this family would continue to hate Israel and demonize Jews... But we could hope. Because that is who we are - we, the soldiers out fighting for the sake of Israel, Zion and the Jewish People.
Our battalion commander says that we are a nation that loves life and are fighting an enemy that loves death.
I want to apologize to the innocent Gazans whose houses were left a mess by IDF units, and apologize to the Gazans who were injured and killed in the crossfire. War is sad and terrible and I don’t wish it upon anyone. But we, the Jewish people, have a right not only to defend ourselves - we must fight to protect our rights to live free in our homeland.
I’m not sure what army the BBC, CNN, the U.N., EU, and many people around the world are talking about, but Israel's army is one of the most moral armies in the world.
I am proud to fight with them, and you should be proud to support us in our important work to bring peace to Israel and defend our rights while protecting civilian atrocities in every way possible.