Updated: Oct 22
Yesterday, we went home to Ashkelon. We were there for a few hours. While at home, there were a few rockets in southern Ashkelon, but our sirens did not sound in the north. The plan was to come home on Saturday night and stay. As we packed some clothes for the weekend, I had this sense that it might be some time before we would see our home again.
It was eerily quiet. Part of that is because Ashkelon is mostly evacuated. Elana kept saying, “It is the quiet before the storm.” It feels like the ground invasion is imminent, possibly this weekend. Being in the South all week with the soldiers has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. But there's a sense that things are shifting quickly. Most of the soldiers that were near us are now gone, having moved closer to Gaza.
Rockets from two directions
As I was driving north, suddenly, our phones began to blow up—one rocket after another. But it wasn't just from Gaza. It seemed like half of them were coming from Lebanon. Hezbollah's strategy is to bother us just enough that we have to pay attention to them without actually going to war. They want to distract us from our mission in Gaza.
Houthi and the Blowfish
And if that was not enough, Elana and I were lying in bed watching the news close to midnight when word came that Houthi rebels launched missiles aimed at Israel. Fortunately, the USS Carney destroyer was nearby and shot down all three land-attack cruise missiles. Israelis are so grateful for America's friendship at this crucial time in history.
Mr. Glam goes to Jerusalem
Our mayor in Ashkelon, Tomar Glam (just to show you how close Israel is as a community, Elana and I were in his sister's house just two nights ago, as she fed us a delicious ethnic meal) went to the Knesset the other day and gave them a tongue lashing. How could it be that Ashkelon is the primary target of Hamas rockets, but none of the aid money is coming to us? The Knesset quickly reversed that and allocated 160 million shekels to help relocate Ashkelonim. That is about $1000 per resident…not very much.
Some 40,000 Ashkelonim do not have a protected room. Glam blasted our finance minister for leaving people without protection. “Evacuate those who are without protection. If you have not protected those who have asked for it for years, then evacuate them. What are you waiting for?”
It should be noted that we met his sister only because she came to us when she heard we were helping soldiers. She told us that her son does not have a helmet. We were incredulous. She is the sister of a very influential mayor, and her son doesn't have a helmet! We are hearing reports that Israel is rapidly rectifying the situation regarding the lack of equipment. But thanks to you and your gifts, we have done our part and will continue.
This morning on Channel 12 news, they interviewed a young couple. They had to postpone their wedding because of the war. Alexi was called up to reserves. He went to his commander and asked if they could do something small—not a wedding—for them. The commander said no.
Later, Alexi was called into a meeting, and he saw cameras. He thought it must be an interview. Suddenly, he saw someone dressed in white. It was Adina in a wedding dress. He was “b’helem miklat” (in complete shock). His unit had arranged a wedding behind his back. Adina said, “A wedding it is a happy event. In times like these, every happy event is [even more] meaningful.”
Pictures of victims from the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7, 2023 (Photo: Tel Aviv University)
Pictured are soldiers, grandmothers, children, and others. Some were murdered, and others are being held hostage.
Israeli Brit dies a Hero
Major Benjamin Trakeniski was just 32 and ready to marry his fiancée, Rotem, in April. But despite being off duty, he was one of the few Israeli soldiers who came to the rescue. To be clear, it wasn't that the soldiers were unwilling. Israelis are known for their willingness to risk their lives and protecting others. It was simply that they did not know. It took hours before there was the proper response.
In the meantime, Trakeniski did his best to evacuate wounded Israelis in Kibbutz Be’eri.
Major Trakeniski with his fiancée Rotem.
It was a suicide mission. Before Hamas killed him, he saved several Israelis.
“You cared for your frail grandparents with respect and dignity, and you were ever conscious of soldiers’ needs,” she said.
“Benji, thank you for the honour of letting you be my son.”
On Sunday night, Mrs. Bennett, 68, told The Telegraph how her son was off duty but had driven with colleagues to the kibbutz when he heard rumours about what was happening.
Mrs. Bennett, who grew up in north London, said: “He was off duty and at his home in Tel Aviv and initially drove with colleagues to his base in the north in the morning when they heard rumours about what was happening.
“When they found out what was going on in Be’eri, they drove from the base to the kibbutz and managed to eliminate some terrorists and help some families who were hiding from the terrorists. “We do not know the full details, but I understand he then went back into the kibbutz and was killed at that point.”(Telegraph)
When I finally got home (where we are staying), more requests came in.
Tactical shirts. A quantity of 270 fighter shirts at a cost of about 150 NIS is requested. The total purchase amount is about NIS 40,000 ($10,000).
The PEQ-15 device is a unique device for installation on the assault rifle. This is a particular device that helps when dealing with terrorists at night and reduces nighttime attacks by 50%. We were able to find suppliers in the US for the purchase. Purchasing approximately 270 will cost approximately NIS 400,000 ($100,000). Note: $100,000 would take a small miracle. Only soldiers who crossed the border into Gaza will be receiving one of these from us. We have people on the ground to make sure of this.
We need to buy 15 inexpensive computers for underprivileged kids who are now studying on Zoom in Ashkelon. We love to bless Ashkelon!!!
Pray that the Houthis do not continue with their belligerence. And pray that our leaders, both in Israel and in the US, would be willing to respond decisively, deterring their Iran-backed aggression.
Pray for the protection of all of our soldiers. Elana and I, having left Ashkelon, are actually sleeping in the bed of a reserve soldier—a sniper. His family have been dear friends for many decades. Pray for his protection and all of the young men in the IDF. I've tried to show you over the past two weeks that these are not hardened military men. They come from every walk of life. But they are well-trained and incredibly brave.
Please pray for bold and decisive leadership at this time. There is going to be incredible world pressure to not finish Hamas. But no nation can continue to live like this, with terrorists planning suicide missions on your borders. Pray that our leaders will be more concerned about protecting Israel than pleasing left-wing journalists and weak leaders in Western nations.
(NOTE: the only language that is understood in the Middle East is force. Hamas has been in power for nearly 20 years because they took it by force, even throwing Palestinian Authority officials off roofs. When Israel left Gaza in 2005 as a goodwill gesture, it was not received that way. Hamas celebrated it like a military victory and only increased their aggression. You cannot win on this side of the world with a Western mentality.)
Pray that the IDF is able to equip every soldier with everything they need, from bulletproof vests to quality helmets. Pray that we would cut through all bureaucracy and red tape.
Pray that our soldiers will not be filled with a spirit of revenge. Many of them are eager to go defend the honor of Israel. They are beautiful young men. They are not like Hamas. But we have to pray that they keep their eye on the mission and not let human emotions take over.
And please do not forget the survivors. Don't forget the families of the hostages. And do not forget the hostages themselves.