Our soldiers, who fight in the army of Israel, are soldiers of our people, soldiers of our nation. It would be pretentious to say they were soldiers of God. All governments and all nations wish to make this claim, believing that just as they are instruments of a greater cause, so too would be the soldiers.
In Israel, there are a large number of young men, ranging well into the tens of thousands, who do not serve in the army. They believe that they serve God and nation by spending their days praying and learning. They believe they are soldiers of God. There are many in this nation who don’t agree and thus there is often a bitter divide between these two groups.
But there are soldiers of God, without question, and this week, they took the form of a young couple and their family. They have “fought” their war not here in Israel, but as part of a larger army that spreads itself throughout the world. There are few places this army does not occupy, at least in the sense of a tiny little corner. Years ago, I ridiculed the slogan that came out of 770, a building in New York were the Lubavitcher Rebbe lived and served the people of Israel.
They distributed books and hats and stickers to children, claiming themselves and all to be soldiers of God. I didn’t think much of the campaign, and for that, I apologize deeply. I have learned the bitterest of lessons this week. In Mumbai, more than two dozen terrorists attacked several targets simultaneously. Their goal, in each place, was clear. Their target was, for the most part, “westerners” – but in the Chabad House, their target was clearly Jews and Israelis.
I do not yet know the fate of the Rabbi and his wife, who served there. They were a spot of light from home for thousands of Israeli youth who travel to India and the Far East after serving in the army. Many of these young Israelis believe that after surviving 3 years in the army, they can survive anything. They go off alone or in small groups to get as far from Israel as possible. And when they arrive, they realize they miss home. The Chabad House offers them this touch of home, this connection. Here, you can speak Hebrew; here, you can light Shabbat candles, eat food that reminds you of home. Here, you can relax. Here you are not Israeli. Here, you are just you and you are home.
The young child of the rabbi and his wife has survived, hopefully to be reunited with his parents shortly. His grandparents left Israel yesterday, along with medical aid and other teams to help find, collect, treat, and perhaps bring home those who wish to return.
What happened in India this week and specifically at the Chabad Center in Mumbai, shows that there are soldiers of God, and this week, they were called to fight. Elie is home for Shabbat, a treat I plan to enjoy. Hours after he arrived, Arabs from the village of Azoun threw a firebomb at an ambulance from the Magen David Adom (the equivalent of Israel’s Red Cross services).
“Guess they’ll have a busy night,” Elie said to me when he heard. I’m glad my soldier of Israel…and of God…is home this weekend.
May God send His mercy and healing to the victims and hostages in Mumbai and may the soldiers of God be spared to continue to serve in His ways.