“Where do you want to be buried?”

This is not a question that mothers are supposed to need to ask their children. Over the past nine years, as an active reservist, I was always aware of the possibility that Israel would find itself at war and that we would be called upon. But even in my darkest nightmares, I could never have fathomed the events of October 7th.

Hamas terrorists deliberately and brutally murdered over a thousand civilians, including women, children, elderly – even infants. The streets of Gaza echoed with harrowing scenes: jubilant celebrations by the people of Gaza of these heinous acts, some of whom, by Hamas’s own admission, had participated in them. There were heart-wrenching videos of beaten and bloodied kidnapped Israeli teenagers being led around the streets by their hair. The victims all had only one thing in common: they were, or were believed to be, Israeli.

These actions demand a response. We, the soldiers of the IDF, are the ones who must respond, and I am among them. As a result, last week at JFK airport, my mother, through her tears, asked me if I would want to be buried in America or Israel as we said goodbye to each other before my flight to Israel to join my unit.

The author during a reserve training period.

The mobilization of reservists that has occurred over the past two weeks is the largest since the Yom Kippur War half a century ago. The response rate of those called to service was reported to be 106%.  In restaurants, gas stations, and malls around the country, normally filled with civilians, one sees a sea of green uniforms and guns.

Despite our pain, our spirits are high, and our collective conviction in the righteousness of the path before us is strong. Nevertheless, the distance between civilian and soldier is great, and the transition is difficult, physically and mentally. Drilling in full gear in the punishing Middle Eastern sun is harder at 35 than it was at 25. Many of my friends have wives and children at home – one will, with near certainty, miss the birth of his first child. A few weeks ago, I was pitching investors at a conference, debating the merits of our business model. This week, I debated with my fellow soldiers if it would be better to wear our armored vest higher or lower, knowing that field surgery can’t address a stomach wound.

Last weekend I celebrated my brother’s wedding. Russell and his bride Jenna were married wrapped in the flag of Israel, a flag I now carry in my military vest as we prepare for a ground incursion into Gaza.  That flag, which last Saturday was the backdrop to a scene of love and unity, now serves as a symbol of strength and resilience in the face of terror.

Wedding photo
Russell and Jenna’s wedding.

The flag in my vest is not the only thing I carry. I carry hope that if we are able to remove Hamas from power, Israel will become a safer place. I carry belief in the justness of our cause. I carry fear – for my friends’ lives and for my own. Before I left, my best friend reminded me that bravery is to act without fear, whereas courage is to act in spite of it.  In the small country that is Israel, everybody knows someone who was injured or killed on October 7th. The threat that Hamas poses to Israel is both real and personal, and so action is the only choice.