Sirens, Hospitals, and the Strength of Our Soldiers

Sirens, Hospitals, and the Strength of Our Soldiers

By Steve Zerobnick

As one walks through the streets of Israel today, amidst the latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza, one can feel a heavy sense of helplessness among Israelis. While, in truth, the entire country has mobilized to attend the funerals and mourning services of fallen soldiers they don’t know, to bring food, supplies and support to the soldiers on the front lines, to provide support for the families with someone on emergency reserve duty, to open their homes to the citizens of the south, there is still a nagging feeling of “what more can I do?”.

It is frustrating, to say the least, to watch the Israel-Hamas war rage without being able to do much besides seek shelter when there is a “Code Red” siren. Whereas in the past, my wife and I have bought our groceries for Shabbat at supermarkets in the southern city of Sderot which has suffered from years of rocket attacks, I have not been able to do so this time. I am responsible for several youth groups currently touring the country, and I have been constantly adjusting their programs to keep the participants well out of harm’s way, while ensuring that the quality of the trips does not suffer. However, I haven’t been able to get out and do something to help. Until yesterday.

Mid-afternoon I got a call from a colleague that Jordan, a student who had been on a senior class Israel trip from a school in Baltimore, had been injured in Gaza and was in critical condition. After graduation, Jordan made aliyah and enlisted in the army, where he is currently serving in the Golani Infantry Brigade, which has been doing much of the heavy fighting throughout Operation Protective Edge. I immediately called the staff from his trip and his former high school to glean as much information as I could; he was in the ICU at Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah, and his father and brother were on their way to Israel. I decided to go visit him the following morning and went out to buy treats for Jordan and any other injured soldiers that I may happen to meet in the hospital.

A colleague who joined me and I found Jordan in a hospital bed with an oxygen mask on. He had sustained damage from smoke inhalation when a rocket was fired into the apartment that he and several members of his squad had occupied. Those who were not hit by shrapnel, including Jordan, had jumped out of the window to escape the smoke. He was evacuated to a safe zone near the Gaza border, and then sent by helicopter to Beilinson Hospital for treatment. He had his mask on most of the time, so he couldn’t talk much, but he was clearly in good spirits. The prognosis for his recovery is good and he is expected to heal completely. Jordan said that he wants to return to his unit on the front lines as soon as he can.

We walked into one room to find the parents of an injured soldier, Tal Keidar. Despite having been operated on the night before, Tal was not there. As soon as he woke up after surgery, he insisted on getting pain killers and going by wheel chair to the funeral of one of the soldiers he commanded who had been killed in battle.

The selfless dedication of these soldiers and their families to the protection of the people of Israel simultaneously warms and breaks my heart. We visited the hospital to give encouragement to the soldiers and their families, yet it was us who came out encouraged.

It was good to finally get out and do something; to see these soldiers and their positive outlook did good for our souls. May they all have complete recoveries and return to their families and lives.

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