Hebrew Voices #43 – Remembering Our Soldiers

In Hebrew Voices, Remembering Our Soldiers, Nehemia Gordon shares the testimony of a young Israeli soldier willing to sacrifice his life to defend the Promised Land against the onslaught of international Jihad. Please take a few minutes and remember our soldiers with us, in honor of Yom HaZikaron (Israeli "Memorial Day"), which begins this Sunday evening (April 30, 2017).

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Hebrew Voices #43 - Remembering Our Soldiers

You are listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Le ma’an Zion lo ekhesheh, u’l’ma’an Yerushalayim lo eshkot. (For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest. Isaiah 62:1)

Nehemia: Shalom, this is Nehemia Gordon and welcome to Hebrew Voices. I am dedicating this episode to the fallen soldiers on the front lines of the war against international Jihad.

We are coming up on Yom HaZikaron, which is Memorial Day as observed in the State of Israel, for those who died defending the Jewish state. In the United States, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer vacation and is often observed as a time for outings. The exception would be American families who actually have a loved one who died in military service. In Israel, Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, is observed as a solemn day, because we have a citizens' army.

Most adult Jewish males have served in the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces. Everyone knows someone who died in combat. You have to understand, my apartment in Jerusalem is only three miles from Bethlehem, where an Arab Army is poised right now to invade and kill every Jew in my neighborhood. The only thing standing between the next Holocaust and a sovereign Jewish state is our young soldiers who, with God's help and protection, are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives to defend Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, the land which God gave to His people.

This is why Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, is such a big deal in Israel. This is the reason why every foreign dignitary who visits Israel is taken to see two things. It doesn't matter whether you're the President of the United States or the Minister of Tourism of Swaziland. Every foreign dignitary is taken first to see Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and then across the street to Mount Herzl. Yad Vashem is Israel's national Holocaust Museum. It's the memorial that explains how six million Jews were murdered.

And then, the dignitaries are taken across the street and they're shown Mount Herzl, which is Israel's equivalent of the Arlington National Cemetery. It's the main military cemetery in Israel, located in the heart of Jerusalem. And Israelis have no subtlety, the message is really clear. At Yad Vashem they're shown, “This is what happens when we're not able to defend ourselves.” And across the street at Mount Herzl they're shown, “This is what happens when we are able to defend ourselves. People still die, but it's far fewer. And we don't go silently and defenseless like lambs to the slaughter.”

Recently, I was interviewing a Rabbi in Jerusalem and he remarked how today was the first time in centuries that it is more dangerous to be a Christian in the Middle East than to be a Jew. He said, “The reason for this is that today, we have an army to defend ourselves. And the Christians outside of Israel don't have any army defending themselves. They have armies slaughtering them.”

Israelis have some unique traditions associated with Yom HaZikaron. Perhaps the most unique thing is that Memorial Day is immediately followed by Independence Day. Like all Jewish observances, Memorial Day runs from evening to evening. At 8 pm on Yom HaZikaron there's a ceremony announcing that the time for mourning has ended, and now the time for celebration begins. For someone unfamiliar with the intensity of mourning on Israeli Memorial Day, followed by the equally intense celebration only minutes later for Independence Day, this can seem quite strange. However, this reflects the actual experience of the Jewish people who went through the Holocaust, in which one in every three Jews was murdered by the Nazis. This was followed only three years later by the fulfillment of a 2000-year-old prayer, the founding of a sovereign Jewish state in Israel in 1948. The intimate mixing of mourning and celebration has been a part of the Jewish experience for centuries and was solidified in this formation period of modern Israel.

Another unique tradition observed on Israeli Memorial Day is our observance of a moment of silence. At 10 am, the vast network of air raid sirens sounds all over the country. People stop what they're doing wherever they are, with their heads bowed in silence, as the all-clear siren blasts loudly throughout the land. Drivers will simultaneously stop their cars in the middle of the road, and the side of the highway, get out and stand solemnly remembering our fallen soldiers. Would you join me now in a moment of silence? Don't stop your car in the middle of the road, but if you're in a place that it's safe to do so, please bow your head and remember those young boys who have died defending God's people.

[Siren Sounds]

Nehemia: Okay, wow. I want to share with you a discussion I had recently with Michael Rood, about a letter my nephew sent to me a few months ago. At the time, my nephew Nitai was a combat soldier in the Golani brigade of the IDF, stationed on the Golan Heights, facing ISIS forces in Syria. Here's my conversation with Michael Rood on his Shabbat Night Live program.

Michael: During President Trump's State of the Union address, he recognized a Navy SEAL who died in action in Yemen, Chief Special Warfare Operator, William Ryan Owens. And it was at that time that he recognized him, that the President of the United States honored him in death and promoted him and announced there in front of everyone, “Senior Chief.” And his widow was there, Karen Owens, and it was a very moving moment in time when this woman was told, and it was then promoted out there that her husband died for nothing. And the President of the United States clarified the record. No, he did not die for nothing. He died in the service of this country. He died doing a very heroic act. And now she's getting recognized for it.

But part of the Congress decided to do a sit-down strike right in the middle of this thing. We have with us, ladies and gentlemen, joining us, not only an American but an Israeli, one who is very familiar with what is going on in the land of Israel, around the world, for those who are really fighting and standing against terrorism. Ladies and gentlemen, again with us we have Nehemia Gordon. Welcome, Nehemia. It's good to have you with us.

Nehemia: Shalom, Michael, it's great to be here. And I really am appreciative to Ryan Owens for the sacrifice he gave. For years, he went out to defend people against this Islamic extremist terrorism, and he eventually gave his life. And just the pettiness of talking about whether or not that specific operation in which he died got actionable intelligence or not, you don't know that until afterwards. So, it doesn't even matter. Here's a man who gave his life for the country and gave his life to defend Western civilization against this evil force that's trying to kill people and is being very successful at it.

We were talking before about an Israeli hero, a man named Sergeant Elor Azarya, and it's very tragic what happened to him. He was just recently convicted of manslaughter for shooting a terrorist dead. This happened on March 24, 2016. There was a terrorist attack in Hebron, where two Arab terrorists wielding knives attacked an Israeli position, actually wounded Israeli soldiers. One of them was immediately shot dead, the other terrorist was mortally wounded, he was laying there bleeding out, unconscious. And Sergeant Elor Azarya came along with the reinforcements. And at first, they believed that this man was dead, the terrorist, but then he shot him in the head when the terrorist moved. And this was videoed by a leftist agitator activist who then put it up on the Internet, and the leftist video had no sound.

Michael: Well, conveniently it had no sound.

Nehemia: Yeah, I don't know if the original had sound or not, or they took it out, I have no idea. But the way it appeared with no sound is that he shot this terrorist dead for no reason. And so, this went around the world, and the United Nations actually condemned Israel for this shooting of a wounded... They made it sound like the poor Palestinian teenager was killed. No, this was a terrorist in his 20s...

Michael: Who had already stabbed somebody.

Nehemia: He, minutes before, had stabbed somebody. He had been mortally wounded, hadn't died yet, but was mortally wounded. They assumed that he was either completely unconscious or near death. Elor Azarya in his testimony testified, he said, “The terrorist moved. He could have detonated a device.” Now, what does he mean by that, “a device?”

So, there's a second video, and the second video, as far as I know, has never been discussed in the Western media, and that's because it's in Hebrew. And in the second video, you can clearly see that there is a man, seconds before Elor Azarya kills the terrorist. The man shouts out in Hebrew, “Yesh alav kanir'eh mit'an, simu lev. Ad shelo ba khablan lo nog'im bo,” which in English is, “He has an explosive vest, be careful. No one is to touch him until the bomb squad arrives.”

So, imagine Elor Azarya is there. They think the terrorist is dead and then somebody shouts out, “Don't touch him. He's got a bomb on him, he's gonna blow himself up.” All of a sudden, unexpectedly, the terrorist moves. Elor Azarya takes his Tavor rifle around his head, aims and shoots and kills the terrorist in the head. But because the leftist narrative has now gone out around the world, and the United Nations has condemned Israel, they decided to throw him under the bus. And what they're explaining in Israel is that the Palestinians were on the verge of rioting all across Israel, and they decided to sacrifice this poor young Sergeant. He must have been 20 years-old or so. They sacrificed him to appease the Palestinians and say, “Oh, okay. We killed this terrorist, but we're going to put our person in prison.” And he was just convicted, 18 months. He's appealing it, but he was just convicted.

Michael: Oh, that's such a travesty.

Nehemia: It really is.

Michael: I mean, a 20-year-old sergeant. To reach that rank at his age, he had to have a sterling character, and they ought to give him a marksmanship award. I mean, he shot him in the head, a brainstem shot, in order to stop what could have been a detonation of a bomb. This man was perfect, cool, under control, and took that shot and ended that terrorist's life which, you know, if it had ended before he even wounded an Israeli that would have been better. But to then throw him under the bus, this is absolutely a travesty.

Nehemia: It really is.

Michael: I hope that appeal goes through and they give him an award.

Nehemia: Michael, there was a terrorist attack on June 28, 2016, where a terrorist in the Istanbul airport opened fire on passengers and people in the airport. And they shot him and he fell, and he looked like he was mortally wounded. And then they quietly and slowly approached him to, I guess, Mirandize him and read him his rights. And what does he do? He did what terrorists do. He blew himself up and killed more people than he had initially by opening fire. And the moral of the story is, if a terrorist is coming to kill and die, you kill him. You put him down and do not let him kill more people. You're just stupid if you let him blow yourself up. Now, in the case of Elor Azarya, the terrorist didn't have an explosive vest, but they didn't know that.

Michael: Who knows? Who knows?

Nehemia: Not only who knows, there's evidence that one of the people at the scene shouted. I mean, I heard it myself in the audio, “No one is to touch him until the bomb squad arrives.” So, Michael, my nephew at the time, was in the Israeli army, and I want to quickly read a letter that he sent to me. And he asked me not to share this until he was released from the army, because he could have gotten in trouble. This is my nephew, Nitai, who was in the Golani Brigade, his authentic reaction to this situation. Here's what he wrote to me. He writes, "Dear uncle, for six months a storm of emotions has raged inside me following the incident with the combat soldier, Elor Azarya. I don't intend to dissect the incident from a professional military standpoint."

And his basic point is, “I don't know if the guy should have shot him in the head.” At that time, they didn't know about the second video, but he explains his reaction. He says, "I volunteered for the Golani brigade." And that's an elite combat brigade in the Israeli army. "I knew exactly what I'm willing to sacrifice and understand why I want to do this. This is the upbringing I received at home. From a young age, it was clear to me that I would be a combat soldier. And yeah, this is no small sacrifice." My nephew, when he wrote this, was 21. "Wow, when you're stuck serving and your friends get to go home. Sleeping for days straight wearing your boots, trekking dozens of kilometers carrying heavy equipment, and having a relationship with your girlfriend over the cellphone. These are all difficult things that anyone who has served in combat can identify with. And every combat soldier knows these things are trivial compared to the true sacrifice which you are prepared to give as a gift, so that we can have a country of our own."

You know, what stands between Islamic extremist terrorists and mass murderers is little children like my nephew. He goes on, "It helps that the people you love are proud of you. It's always fun to hear on the way home, ‘Golanchik.’” That means, ‘Little Golan soldier,’ “come and help yourself to a free falafel ball.” But you don't do it for that. In order to survive for three years as a combat soldier, you need a much deeper and well-thought-out reason that you can draw on. No matter what amount of crap you eat, something that allows you to finally fall asleep with mud filled boots and tell yourself it's worth it. He says, “Even though I've seen difficult moments, I've never had doubts until now.” He says, “Of course, we need the officers.” And you have to understand, in the Israeli army the officers go first, they say akharay- after me." The enlisted men follow the officers into combat. "The officers are responsible for us. They serve as our mother, our father, our brother. If we mess up, they punish us. But we have to rely on our officers during battle to give orders that could save lives. We also have to trust them to have our backs when we make mistakes. We are human before we are combat soldiers, and there's no one who's never made a mistake. The day Elor's commanders did not have his back was the first day during my service that I seriously considered going into the commander's office, handing him my weapon and telling him it is not for me. I'm willing to give everything, and this is how they might abandon me? Am I really going to charge at the enemy in the footsteps of someone who won't have my back if something goes wrong? For six months I've been carrying around these thoughts, and every time I hear something new about the Elor Azarya trial they return to me. But despite this, I will remain a combat soldier. I will finish my service soon with the bitter knowledge that this could have happened to me or to someone from my team or my company. What can I do about it? Not much. What I can do is be proud of those men who hold our country together and protect us. I can acknowledge that they are truly giving everything in the fullest sense of the word. Thank you Elor Azarya for protecting us." That was my nephew's message. That's the letter he wrote me.

Michael: Nothing more to be said. Nothing more. Shalom, Nehemia. Thank you.

Nehemia: Shalom.

You have been listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon’s Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

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New Terror Tactic Used in Istanbul Airport Attacks

Dear Uncle,

...for six months a storm of emotions has raged inside me following the incident with the combat-soldier Elor Azaryah. ...I don't intend to dissect the incident from a professional-military standpoint, but I will go over it in general for those who are not familiar. Elor was stationed with the Tel Rumeidah Company as part of the Hebron Battalion, [when] a terrorist... carried out an ...attack [against them]. Our forces suffered light casualties and the terrorist was neutralized. Elor was called in from headquarters to the scene of the incident. He identified a terrorist moving and shot him in the head. ...This may not have been the most professional-military decision, but I can't know because I wasn't in his shoes and it doesn't really matter.

...I volunteered for the Golani Brigade... ...I know exactly what I am willing to sacrifice and understand why I want to do this. This is the upbringing I received at home. From a young age, it was clear to me that I would be a combat-soldier. And yeah, this is no small sacrifice. Wow, when you are stuck serving and your friends get to go home, sleeping for days straight wearing your boots, trekking dozens of kilometers carrying heavy equipment, and having a relationship with your girlfriend over the cellphone. These are all difficult things that anyone who has served in combat can identify with. And every combat-soldier knows these things are trivial compared to the true sacrifice which you are prepared to give as a gift, so that we can have a country of our own.

...It helps that the people you love are proud of you and it's always fun to hear on the way home, "Golanchik, come and help yourself to a free falafel ball!" But you don't do it for that. In order to survive for three year as a combat-soldier, you need a much deeper and well-thought-out reason that you can draw on, no matter what amount of crap you eat, something that allows to finally fall asleep with mud-filled boots and tell yourself it's worth it.
Even though I have seen difficult moments, I have never had doubts, until [now].

[You see,]...we don't need appreciation... but what is critical is those who serve with you: your brothers-in-arms, your team, your platoon, your squad, your company. You need them. They are the ones who replace you at 3 am for guard duty. They are the ones who save you the biggest shnitzel [in the mess hall] when you are out on patrol. They are the ones you see when you go to sleep, and again when you wake up. They are the ones you spend 72 hours with, lying in the dirt, waiting for terrorists. They are the ones you are willing to do anything for and they will do anything for you? And why? Because, who else can you rely on, if not them?

Oh, I almost forgot. Of course, we also need the officers. [explain: after me!] The officers are responsible for us. They serve as our mother, our father, and our brother. ...Every problem you have, you know you can trust your officer and rely on him to help. The officers are responsible for teaching us military-professionalism and discipline. And if we mess up, to also punish us. Or if we do well, to reward us. We have to rely on our officers during battle, to give orders that could save lives. We also have to trust them to have our backs when we make mistakes. We are human before we are combat-soldiers and there is no one who has never made a mistake.

The day Elor's commanders did not have his back, was the first day during my service that I seriously considered going into the commander's office, handing him my weapon, and telling him that this was not for me. ...I am willing to give everything and this is how they might abandon me? ...Am I really going to charge at the enemy in the footsteps of someone who won't have my back if something goes wrong?

...For six months I have been carrying around these thought and every time I hear something new about the [Elor Azaryah] trial they return to me. But despite this, I will remain a combat-solder. ...I will finish my service soon with the bitter knowledge that this could have happened to me, or to someone from my team, or my company. What can I do about it? Not much... What I can do is be proud of those men who hold our country together and protect us. I can acknowledge that they are truly giving everything in the fullest sense of the word. Thank you, Elor Azaryah, for protecting us!

Nitai, Golani Combat Brigade

  • Barbara Jayne says:

    Blessed be the memory of the fallen. May the Father be ever looking out after the IDF soldier. I cry with you and I sympathize with your nephew. But, no matter where men fail you, you can count on Yehovah.

  • Nehemiah thank you for sharing. I will pray for your cousin and all of the soldiers in Israel. May I ask a question? In the Bible it states that the East gate of the temple is only open on the Sabbath and on the renewed moon. Why does everyone pray to the East instead of to the West.

    Thank you for your service to YahHoVah

    Timothy Davis

  • Roxanne says:

    Have not I commanded you?
    Be strong and of a good courage;
    be not afraid,
    neither be dismayed:
    for YHVH thy God is with you
    wherever you go.
    – Joshua 1:9

    But thus says YHVH,
    Even the captives of the mighty
    shall be taken away,
    and the prey of the terrible
    shall be delivered:
    for I will contend with him that contends with you,
    and I will save your children.
    -Isaiah 49:25

    Praise the Holy One of Israel!

  • Lydia says:

    also, Nehemia, you must be so proud of your nephew. what a bright and thoughtful young man. makes me think the mandatory 3 year service would probably do a world of good here in the states. thank Nita, I for sharing! my prayers are with him 🙂

  • Lydia says:

    I just can’t understand why, Israel doesn’t stick up for, the completely reasonable, really best reaction to an attacking terrorist? Why does, this appease the Palestinians?

  • Aron Brackeen says:

    Very touching…in fact, humbling. It seems that I can find too many things to mention as problems — really?! Try a day in the life of Elor Azaryah; in the life and thoughts of Nitai; just a month in the reality of men and women that face fighting against sever consequences of broken/sinful humanity, Islamic-extremist-terrorist. May Messiah come soon…

    (Thanks, NG! The siren made an audible impact.)