Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Very Personal War - 2nd Edition

A group of friends of mine from the United States, led by Rabbis Barry Gelman of Houston, and Asher Lopatin of Chicago, came to the southern region of Israel for a 36-hour solidarity mission. I joined them in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Nitzan, Be'er Sheva, Sederot, and other places as well. (We drove around quite a bit.)
The most meaningful part of the trip was our visit to Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva, where we visited a soldier injured during the fighting named Li'el Cohen. My friend Rabbi Gelman, writing on the blog for the mission (isn't the 21st century amazing) wrote:
The group I visited with went to see the family of Lee'el Cohen who suffered a serious head and brain injury in Gaza last week. We prayed together and spoke about Lee'el and his wife. Lee'el's father requested that we lead our congregation in prayer for Lee'el , the other wounded soldiers as well as all the soldiers of the IDF.
Lee'el has been married for 14 months. His family is praying that he will soon recover and continue building his family. His father called this struggle only and " intermission" in Lee'els plans. We explained that our delegation came as representatives of the American Jewish community so soldiers like Lee'el would know that they are supported and loved by Am Yisrael. We explained that we were only representatives of our communities and in reality there thousands of Jewish families represented in that room. Although It is hard to believe, Lee'els father told us that our presence warmed his heart and gave them added strength to carry on.
There was a constant flow of uniformed young men and women coming to visit Lee'els family. They were all members of his Golani Brigade unit. I have reached a point where these fighting men and women look like children to me.
Lee'els father constantly spoke of God, together with the doctors, who he called angels in white coats, who would hopefully heal his son.
For me, this was the most powerful part of the trip. To spend time with a family that is suffering so much anxiety and uncertainty, but who at the same time handle themselves with such poise and express such deep faith is an unbelievably moving experience.
We promised that we would pray for his well-being, and send our message to as many people as possible. Li'el suffered severe injuries to the head, and his recovery - even if successful, will be long and arduous. I spent some time sitting with Li'el's mother. She sat in that cold hospital lobby, with mounds of food by her side, and pictures of her son. It's amazing how similar hospitals can be, no matter where they are in the world. She said that as a mother, she could not sit by her son's side for very long at any one time, watching him suffer in pain.

Please pray for a refu'ah for Li'el Hoshea ben Miriam. May Hashem bring him a complete recovery, both in body and spirit.