HISTORY AND PRIDE: THREE DEVOTED IDF SOLDIERS SPEAK AT HARRISON JCC - By Laura Rolnick
Three young IDF soldiers, Yonah, Yotam, and Dor, shared stories of pride and commitment to Israel at the Harrison JCC, preceding an evening FIDF concert. All three are currently serving as officers in widely differing units of the IDF, but each expressed with great emotion and perspective how their family backgrounds, Jewish history and anti-semitism played into their choice to devote their lives to protecting the Jewish homeland.
Yonah, 22, and Yotam, 24, relayed an acute awareness of both historical and current anti-semitism as one of the unfortunate exigencies of the need for a Jewish State. Born in the Netherlands and raised in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Yonah’s diplomat father served as counsel general in Israel, where Yonah lived for nine years before moving to San Francisco for High School. She observes in retrospect that “two things can happen when an Israeli moves to the U.S. – they can become more American or they can become more Israeli.” Living in California, amongst the numerous and “ignorant” anti-Israel protests, made it clear to Yonah that Israel “has to take care of itself” and that she “had to go back and enlist.” Her sister was serving in a new unit called The Lions of Jordan, which opened women to combat positions in an ideal way according to Yonah, and Yonah chose to serve as an officer in the Artillery Core, where she has served for 3.5 years directing and detecting artillery fire. She authorizes the red alarm (which alerts people as to where incoming artillery will land and directs people to hide in shelters), operates large tanks which can fire from long ranges, and gives commands to fire. Her perspective from having lived in other countries has heightened Yonah’s pride in being an Israeli; she is “in awe over the quality of the people” in her country.Captain Yotam, 24 year-old Naval Officer and Commander of Weapons Department, commands soldiers in special missions on the sea, which he finds gratifying and particularly challenging, as operating “alone on the sea” places “complete responsibility on the soldiers.” He has served in the forefront of Israel’s acquisition of the newest, state-of-the-art submarines, and described an emotional moment of triumph within the historical framework of the Holocaust. When Yonah’s grandmother was six years old in Poland, hiding in ghettos during World War II, her mother Judith was captured and placed in line for execution by Nazis. When the German soldiers went on a short break Judith ran with her daughter to escape. Mother and daughter were captured by a German soldier who ultimately agreed to set them free, but laughed at Judith’s asking for his name in order to thank him after he war, haughtily saying “there will be no Jews left.” Fast forward to a recent IDF mission: Yotam was asked to be part of a crew to bring new submarines from Germany to Israel, and “so many years later Judith’s great grandson goes to Germany and returns to Israel with a new submarine, proudly waving an Israeli flag.” Yotam credits his grandmother with imparting the deep understanding Israel’s import for the Jewish people and the awareness that “the duty to serve is a present we get.”
Dor, a team leader in the Yalom Unit, a special unit of the engineering corps, is involved in complex engineering situations for the IDF: disabling bombs, accurate demolitions of explosives, breaching doors and walls, underground warfare, and terror tunnels. He described the difficulties in finding and demolishing terror tunnels, as well as the critical emotional responsibilities he faces in connecting the families of fallen soldiers to their loved one’s final weeks and hours, which he describes as “one of the hardest and most important things a man can do.”
These three impressive, devoted and eloquent young people again brought to our community the reality, and importance of the soldiers and officers protecting Israel twenty-four seven.