The following article is authored by Michael Goldman, a retired member of Tzahal who spoke at TABC in commemoration of Yom HaZikaron. It serves both as a reflection and summary of his Wednesday morning remarks.
Although I completed my service in Tzahal in the Tzanchanim brigade almost three years ago, this year was the first time I have had the opportunity to speak on Yom Hazikaron, in an address to the students at TABC and Maayanot. I’m not sure it’s possible to give over what an entire country of people in Eretz Yisrael are feeling, and I’m not sure one can truly give over the feelings of a personal connection or family connection. No student or anyone who didn’t serve could understand what it feels like to see the name Max Steinberg go up on a video screen, and think of how close I came to being up on that screen as well. Nor can they understand the feeling of only being able to see Evyatar Turgeman’s picture, but never again to be able to see him in person. So what then could I speak about?
I’d like to share just a couple of the ideas and thoughts that I shared with the students. Having been drafted in February of 2013, I had the opportunity to serve in Operation Protective Edge. Our goal in the operation was to find the terror tunnels in order that they could be destroyed. My unit entered Gaza and began the search. We would take over a house and begin to set it up for protection, and then at different intervals different groups of soldiers would go out to search the surrounding areas for tunnels while the rest stayed back to protect them and all of the equipment in the house. Many different steps were taken to help ensure the house’s protection, such as having guard posts on all 4 sides of the house. One of the crucial rules was that other than the people currently guarding, nobody was allowed to be in any outside rooms. Rather, we had to be situated and sleep in the middle of the house. Why was this so? If a rocket were to hit the house, it would likely kill anybody in an outside room. If you were further inside the house you were likely to be safe.
After about a week inside, it was time again to move to a different house. (The living conditions deteriorated quickly without running water.) We gathered our things, and began the half mile walk to our next location. My group was going to be splitting up into two different houses right next to each other. There were 150 yards of open space in front of the next house. They therefore decided that the group I was in would go first and take over our house, and then afterwards the next part of the group would cross the area and take over their house. That way, there wouldn’t be too many people in such an open area all at once. Cover fire and “noise” always preceded house entrances, and this time was no exception. After taking care of what needed to be taken care of, my group finally entered the house. We were standing in the middle of the room, beginning to take out the different equipment that we needed to set up the house for protection, when all of a sudden bullets started flying through the room. Some went right over my friend’s head, while others went just pass another person’s ear. A few people were nearly hit. Immediately, we hit the ground or jumped to posts and began the lookout to figure out who and where the shots had come from. After about fifteen minutes, they radioed over to us to tell us what had happened.
As the other half the group went to take over their house, they also set up to go in with cover fire. The officer told the machine gunner to shoot at the house across. The soldier thought it was obvious that it was the house on the left and the officer thought it was obvious he meant the house on the right. He proceeded to fire upon the house on the left-- the house my group was in. Immediately, they stopped him, and Baruch Hashem, everyone came out from the incident unscathed. This was just one of numerous close calls and incidents that easily could have ended very differently. Things like this happened throughout the entire war, and it’s an utterly astonishing miracle that there weren’t significantly more casualties.
To me the answer to why and how these things happened is simple. That summer, the amount of Tefilot that were said around the world was tremendous. There is no logical reason for that many bullets to miss us time after time. That summer was a tremendous inspiration for me to witness first-hand how even though we may daven in one place, it can have an effect on things across the world. It’s so crucial that before we begin to daven, we take a few seconds to contemplate that a Jew does not only daven for him or herself, or even just for one’s own family, but for everyone, and that the words we are about to say, and that the conversation with Hashem we are about to have is extraordinarily powerful.
Yom Hazikaron is not a day for the family of the victims or for the close friends. They remember the person who they lost every single day. They don’t need a special day to remember. The day is for the rest of us. It is a day to reflect on what these people stood for, and what they would want and expect of those of us still here to do. Be’Ezrat Hashem next year on Yom Hazikaron, we’ll be able to stand and be confident that we lived the past year in a way that those that sacrificed for us would be proud of us.