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Zev Faintuch with Stephanie Goldberg, Jona Frohlich and Tali Floom from Zev’s swearing in ceremony last week

Benji Aziza with Rabbi Yosef Benarroch with Lake Kinneret in the background

Daniel Schachter

Now There Are Three - Three Winnipeg Boys Serving As Soldiers in the IDF

by Danita Aziza, May 16, 2011

Winnipeg can be proud of the fact that at this moment there are three Winnipeg boys serving as soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces, two as Lone Soldiers without family residing in Israel; Daniel Schachter and `Zev Faintuch  as well as Benji Aziza who is the most recent recruit. 

Daniel Schachter made aliyah in 2008 and enlisted in the Fall of 2009 as a Lone Soldier and was one of two from his ulpan/basic training program who qualified to serve in the prestigious Paratrooper Brigade.  After three months of training Daniel was handpicked by his commanders to train as a medic and he successfully completed the course taught entirely in Hebrew.  He just recently finished three months of patrolling the Gaza border and he is, as of this moment, training with his unit in Northern Israel.

Last September, Zev Faintuch came to Israel to participate in a three month army experience programme called Marva.  When the program ended he went North to Metula and spent time volunteering and getting more familiar with Israeli culture.  In March he entered the IDF for 18 months of voluntary service through the Machal program and was drafted into the Nachal unit of the IDF.    Last Thursday night at the Kotel, we joined his proud Mom, Shelley, and a sizeable group of Winnipegers to watch Zev ‘s Hashba’ah , Swearing In ceremony.   We met up with three of Zev’friends and camp buddies, Stephanie Goldberg, Tali Floom and Jona Frolich who are in Israel volunteering with Save A Child’s Heart and touring the Country and together we witnessed the experience of seeing a fellow Winnipeger take the oath to defend the State of Israel in front of the sacred Wall of the Second Temple. 

On Monday, Michel and I, took a two hour drive to the Yigal Allon Center which sits quietly alongside the Kinneret.  Here we were to witness the Swearing in ceremony of our son Benji, who was drafted just over a month ago and is currently in the Ulpan/basic training program along with others who have recently made aliyah or are serving as Lone Soldiers.  As we walked briskly toward the bevy of soldiers, my eye caught a glimpse of someone familiar.  Not only another Winnipeger, but the Rabbi that officiated at Benji’s Bar Mitzvah here in Israel in 2005, Rabbi Yosef Benarroch.  We haven’t seen the Rabbi since we’ve been in Israel, but today he happened to be attending the Ceremony for one of his students from the seminary which he heads, and here we were to meet.  Be it coincidence or not, the reunion at this particular time and place added another special dimension to the day.

It’s hard to articulate a parent’s feeling as they witness their child, dressed in uniform, take an oath to defend the state of Israel and receive their gun and Tanach.  We stood in quiet disbelief as our eyes  fixated on the son who was just born, just a Bar Mitzvah a high school graduate and now a soldier.  And while the singing of Hatikvah evokes emotion at the best of times, the singing at the end of the ceremony came from our inner most depths.  Michel hid behind the camera and I behind the sunglasses, perhaps in a joint effort to protect our eyes from meeting.

Our family has learned from having Daniel, for the past year and a half, in our home for Shabbat and days off that the IDF provides an experience like no other. Through rigorous discipline and training they are able to develop skills that may have otherwise lay untapped.  The army allows for deep and lasting friendships to form and becomes a type of fraternity with a lifelong membership of sorts.  There is much glory in being a member of the IDF, much to be gained personally, yet there is also a great deal of sacrifice and struggle that must be endured and the lives of soldiers are wrapped in an ever present veil of danger.  These boys, unlike many of their peers, are putting their educations on hold, for Daniel and Zev, enduring great distance from family and lives comfortable and familiar to defend the Homeland of the Jewish people.   

Daniel, Zev and Benji  are all courageous young men from Winnipeg.   They are not Israeli born and had no legal obligation to give of themselves to Israel in such a way and yet, they have.  They deserve our interest, our support, our pride and our blessings.  How privileged Michel and I are to be from Winnipeg, but privileged as well to be here at this moment in time in the place where they serve, to watch them from up close.  Let them uphold the oath that they have taken and let them be safe always.

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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