By Jonathan in Tablet Magazine
The following is a letter written by Jonathan, a 24-year-old who grew up in suburban Maryland, to his family. He is currently in Israel serving in the Israeli Defense Forces as a sergeant in the Givati Brigade. He is one of hundreds of American volunteer soldiers known as “lone soldiers.” His unit has served in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.
August 9th, 2014
I’ve wanted to write this since I left Gaza.
Since I came out of Gaza I have stopped reading the international news. Some say we act disproportionately and with disregard for Gazan civilian life, and some outright say we are monsters and commit genocide.
I want to explain what the IDF is as I know it. Two months ago I was having breakfast at a family friend’s house when I got a text telling me to come back to base as soon as possible. I returned to base on the other side of the country within a couple of hours to receive orders. We were on high alert on the Gaza border. Hamas had started shooting rockets again and were threatening terror attacks within Israel. Around me were soldiers from all walks of life: secular Tel Avivians, Ethiopians, Kibbutzinks, religious Jews from the West Bank, Americans, and city kids from Jerusalem. As we spent weeks guarding the Gaza border with Israel we received donations of food, clothing, and toiletries from Israelis and Jews all around the world. The donations poured in and the support letters and children’s drawings we received made us smile.
As the weeks continued and the rocket fire worsened we prepared for a ground operation. After not seeing home for over a month, we entered Gaza with the mission to destroy the elaborate tunnel infrastructure Hamas had built to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks on settlements in Southern Israel. We would have rather been home with family and friends like normal kids our age in other countries; eating Mom’s cooking, playing guitar, going out to a bar with friends, spending a day on the beach. None of us wanted war, but when Israel was under attack we were proud to be able to defend the country we love.
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