We were informed that 4 soldiers from Gdud 697 were killed when they encountered a booby-trapped tunnel entrance in Gaza. One of the soldiers, Major Moshe Yedidya Lighter was the son of Chani Weiss, who grow up with us in Bnie Akiva in Chicago (about 50 years ago). The funeral was on Sunday afternoon at Mount Herzel in Jerusalem. There were many eulogies as all of his siblings, parents, commanders and various politicians spoke. His father, Yechiel Lighter, is politically involved and has close connections to the Prime Minister and others. Literally hundreds of people were at the funeral. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd when his widow spoke. Moshe Yedidya Lighter was a reservist Major in an Elite Unit. He was studying medicine. He had a lot of charisma and was a naturally born leader. During the week I also made a condolence visit to Moshe’s home in Kibbutz Ein Tsurim. There were also hundreds of visitors. The family erected a huge mourner’s marquee but due to the vast amount of people there really wasn’t an opportunity to speak one-on-one with the mourners.
On Monday evening of that week my son’s (Yossie) unit serving in Gaza was sent to the Homefront for equipment maintenance. I don’t know exactly what happened but the unit sent their soldiers home for 48 hours. Of course, my wife and myself went to visit. He was looking good and in good spirits. A lot of what he told us was reported in the media, but here I was hearing it from the horse’s mouth! They entered the Gaza strip in the middle of the night by foot. The Battalion was given a task of clearing out a street in the village of Beit Hanoun. As they entered the Gaza strip the constant noise of aircraft and artillery bombings was in the background. Apparently new technology enables artillery and air support within a close proximity to soldiers on the ground without endangering the soldiers. They went into their first house which was boobytrapped, so they marked it, called in the Engineering Corp and went to the next house. They thoroughly searched each house for weapons, command & control systems and intelligence information. In every house they found weapons. Weapons were found under beds, in the children’s nurseries, hidden in matrices and elsewhere. He made an interesting comment, he said that they opened cupboards where clothes had been immaculately folded. In many cases when they took the clothes out, they would find grenades stored under the clothes. He found a third graders school bag. When he opened it up he found books that were used to teach third grade English. The books, all though in simple language, gave examples of how to prepare bombs and kill Jews. He said that in many of the houses there were tunnel entrances that sometimes were 30 meters deep. They would not go into the tunnels but they used also sorts of methods to blow them up. He said in one of the houses they found proof that hostages were there but would not provide any details. In another house that belonged to a medical doctor from UNRWA he found a machete stashed under the doctor’s bed. I asked him if he witnessed any missile launches made by terrorists against Israel. He said that he did and that even long-range missiles could be fired from a house window such that the logistics involved in firing missiles into Tel Aviv was not cumbersome at all. Yossie relayed that in one instance movement was spotted in a building that was in close vicinity. A quick call to the local tank unit provided a quick solution as the house was leveled. Just to be clear, all the citizens of Beit Hanun were given more than ample opportunity to leave to the south. So, it was a good assumption that any activity in the area was hostile and that the only remaining occupants were Hamas terrorists.
The unit was called back on Thursday and were stationed at Moshav Nir Galim. My wife and myself went there on Friday (it’s pretty close to where we live in Rehovot) and brough the unit “goodies” for Shabbat. They guys were so thrilled. They said that Yossie is like their father (he is a bit older than the rest) so I told them if this is so then we are the Battalions grandparents and we are looking out for them. Yossie returned to Gaza on Shabbat. We haven’t heard from him since. Although there was a news item this morning that two soldiers from his Battalion were critically wounded. The admin person from the Gdud sent WhatsApp messages saying that the rest of the unit is ok and that the wounded we being tended to – that there was no need to worry. Nice that she sent the message.
As the war goes on and casualties are inflicted there has been more of a demand for protective gear that the Army is not readily providing in a timely manner. In addition, the weather has turned rainy and cold and there is also a requirement for warmer clothing. As such, I have been quite busy this week sourcing tactical helmets, face coverings, thermal undershirts etc.
We wake up every morning with the news of fallen soldiers. This week, every day we heard of “another” two. Although on a tactical and strategic level the war is going well and the amount of fallen soldiers is not significant. But on the personal level every fallen soldier is a terrible tragedy and disaster. Before tuning on the radio in the morning I am full of hope that there will be no more reports of fallen or wounded soldiers.
Due to the success of the operations in Gaza the missile attacks are becoming less frequent. Not that they don’t happen (G-d forbid!). Last Friday night at the start of Shabbat there was a siren just before Kiddush. Actually, this was a good thing. As we don’t have a safe room, we go into the stairwell which is amply lighted. While waiting for the all-clear time neighbor noticed that my suit jacket did not match my pants. I guess at some time I mistakenly took somebody else’s suit jacket (I have no idea when or where) I should say though it was a good fit! At the end of Shabbat there was another missile attack and just last night yet another attack. Although they haven’t totally ceased they are certainly less frequent.
I will conclude this report now but just to say the situation in the north is becoming alarming. All the townships on the northern border have been evacuated as the Hizballah are increasing their fire on civilian targets.
Just I was getting ready to send this document I was interrupted by another missile siren. The missile fell about 3 km from my house (on road 431).
Am Yisrael Chai