Carol Goldfus

“Israel has been attacked by Hamas and we are at war: there are many dead and lots of civilians and soldiers have been kidnapped”.

These were the words in a WhatsApp message on the 7th October, 2023, at 10:27, that I received from my son, a soldier, who was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the Hamas attack on Israel.

Since then, our world, both personal and general, has shattered, and, seven and a half months later we are a people in trauma, fighting for our very existence as a country and as a nation.

From being a country on the brink of a civil war on the 6th October, the months following the 7th October have shown what an amazing generation of young men and women we are blessed with. Many soldiers took their gear, said goodbye to their families, and ‘ran’ to join their units or help wherever they could. The price, unfortunately, is high. So many young men have given their lives so that we may live.

For many weeks and months, we wake up with dread to hear the two words הותר לפרסום. “Cleared for publication”…. and then the names, ages, units, and pictures of those who have fallen in incidents in the South—and in the North. In these incidents, many more are injured and the hospitals have geared themselves to cope with emergency situations and treating the injured.

As a mother and grandmother of soldiers, I have felt that it is my responsibility to support and comfort the families of those who were called to defend our country.

From the first week of the war, there are so many families whose lives have been changed forever. As I go from home to home, I am exposed to the essence of Am Yisrael. Each home is filled with people who have come to honour the memory of the fallen, to listen to the parents, wives, and girlfriends tell the story of each of these young men. At these places, I have become aware of the vibrant, strong and resilient Jewish people whose sons, husbands, daughters, wives, and grandchildren are serving with love and commitment, because this is our country and nobody can destroy us. “We have no other country: this is the home of the Jewish People”- echoes at so many homes and is stated over and over by mothers and fathers, wives and children in the hospitals.

For the first few months, there were very few soldiers at the homes of their fallen comrades—only those closely connected. However, whenever the opportunity arose and soldiers were allowed to come home from fighting in Gaza, they immediately came to visit both bereaved families and the injured to share stories of bravery and sacrifice.

These young men and women have taught me to understand the meaning of bravery, of strength and, above all, of the ability to give rather than to take.

However, this is only half of my story as an army mother and grandmother. I also met women and men, whom I call the “Angels of the Army”, namely, those soldiers whose duty it is to inform the parents that their lives have changed forever. These are the soldiers known as Casualty Officers ((קציני נפגעים, the officers that every family fears, and the ones who come day after day, week after week to visit, to console, to strengthen, and to support the families of the fallen.

No words can express my utmost admiration for these young officers. As I continue, unfortunately, to go from family to family, to hug, console and cry with them, I feel so humbled and yet so blessed. Am Yisrael Chai!!!—not as a slogan, but as something palpable and real. Our people are capable of love, warmth, and sacrifice. These young women and men from all walks of life, have taught me, one of the “older generation” what being together in a team means. These families – mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandfathers and grandmothers – and friends have enriched my life. I come away from visiting them strengthened and encouraged, with pain and tears, but with hope and love.

Together with those who have sacrificed their lives, there are so many wounded soldiers. Going from hospital to hospital, I have learned from the families what love and care means. The wounded soldiers have taught me what courage means. What it means to fight back so that they can return to the frontlines!! How much they hurt when they wake up from the induced coma to hear that a fellow soldier has fallen.

The hospitals are filled with the wounded fighting for their lives. It is so gratifying to observe their improvement as they undergo multiple operations, psychological help and support from family and friends. “The Angels of the Army” in Ram 2 in the hospitals look after the families: their dedication and love defies description. The doctors and nurses in the ICUs invest their efforts in both patients and families. Nothing is too trivial for the staff, doctors, nurses and rabbis who accompany the families and injured as they fight their own personal fight.

I bow my head in the face of the courage of the injured soldiers their families and pray for a refua shlema for them all. I feel the calling to be their voice, to show the world their bravery. They exemplify what it means to care one for the other towards a common goal (ביחד).

“We have chosen life” is the refrain that I hear over and over.

May we all be worthy of these amazing heroes.