Wednesday June 9th saw the continuation of the “Belev Echad Tour”, a program treating ten wounded IDF soldiers to a ten day tour of the U.S., hosted by Rabbi Uriel and Shevy Vigler of Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side in conjunction with Chabad Terror Victims Project in Israel.Rabbi Yosef Aharonov, chairman of the Chabad Youth Organization in Israel, said, “This project is part of an effort to strengthen Jewish communities around the world’s identification with what is going on in Israel and with war casualties.
The soldiers thoroughly enjoyed themselves touring all the major sites in Washington. Maor A. of the Givati Brigade was wounded during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2009. A gunshot wound left his right arm paralyzed from the elbow down and he remained hospitalized for a full month. While viewing the exhibits of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Maor emotionally stated, “This is exactly what we soldiers fight for, to be certain that nothing like this can ever occur again. The loss of my arm’s use was worth the sacrifice.”
On Thursday morning the soldiers enjoyed a VIP tour of the White House followed by a warm welcome to the United States by officials in the Israeli embassy. The visit to the embassy was arranged by Rabbi Shlomo Baitsh, shliach in Rockville, Maryland. Senior Israel Police Attaché to the United States, Uri Bar-Lev, addressed the auspicious guests. A native Israeli himself, Bar-Lev is no stranger to tragedy, having lost a leg while serving his country. Bar-Lev explained the uniqueness of the Israeli army, explaining, “Every Israeli knows what it means to be a soldier, because everyone has a family member who has fought in the army. Israel’s army is like one family. Our soldiers fight on Israeli land, on Israel’s very borders and therefore our victories are vital.”
Also present was Senior IDF Attaché to the United States, Gadi Shadmi. Shadmi felt an intrinsic connection with each soldier after having read about them on Chabad Israel Center’s official website. He had memorized each profile and he felt humbled to stand before such heroes. Rabbi Menachem Kutner of Chabad Terror Victims Project, who has come to know the soldiers personally as he deals with them on a day to day basis and who is with them on this trip, exclaimed that he stands in awe of their courage.
When asked to explain Israel’s recent clash with the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, Shadmi stated, “The world is envious of our soldiers. We were attacked on the ship, forced to retaliate, and yet there were only nine casualties. This is something truly phenomenal…”
Twelve-year-old Adam Lassner, who joined the group’s trip to Washington, questioned Bar-Lev, “In your view, how will the world be different in five years time?” Bar-Lev replied, “We will still be fighting over the same issues. They will take more than five years to resolve.” “That’s one answer,” Rabbi Uriel Vigler, countered. “But the real answer is that Moshiach will be here!”.”Of course.” Bar-Lev replied with a smile. “Yes. May he come right now!”