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An Uplifting Update from Benaya

Sophia Mittman

School News Editor

Our shaliach and director for Jewish Life, Benaya Yehuda, has recently been called back to serve in the Israel Defense Forces after Hamas brutally attacked Israel. The JLI members have been in close contact with Benaya over the past few weeks and have appreciated hearing his updates and his positive attitude. During a recent interview with Benaya over the phone, Benaya talked about what he is currently doing in the IDF, what has been happening around him, and how stays positive during these difficult times. Benaya can only share some information regarding his unit in the IDF. Yet, he spoke a lot about the current situation and how communities around him are so active in helping soldiers and others in need.

While Benaya was in his army service from 2005 to 2008, he served as a sniper in a parachute unit. He served during the Second Lebanon War, as well as when Israel pulled out of Gaza. After his army service, he studied in Yeshivot and continued volunteering. He lived in Sderot – a city less than a mile away from Gaza – and was a madrich for Bnei Akiva. In October of 2023, after the Israel-Hamas broke out, Benaya was contacted and went back to serve in the IDF. Because Benaya has previous experience in drone photography, he currently serves as a drone operator in his unit in the Northern part of Israel -- in places such as Shtula and Netu'a. After arriving in Israel in late October, Benaya took a course. Now, he uses several drones with imaging and zoom functions to watch from far distances and see potential targets on the Northern border. With these special drones, he can search the Lebanon borders and then give the air force and tank operators the coordinates for the attacks.

Despite the catastrophes that happened to Israel on October 7, Benaya can stay optimistic. In Israel, a spirit of solidarity and unwavering support thrives among its people. Communities in Israel are coming together, recognizing the urgency to assist those who have lost homes or find themselves in need. Families open their doors to offer shelter, food, and comfort to individuals who are affected by Hamas's catastrophes. Volunteers – even outside Israel – are tirelessly organizing donation drives, gathering essential supplies to distribute to those struggling to meet their basic needs. Benaya claims "there is no way [he] can't be positive about this." He sees all these amazing and spirited individuals – firsthand – going anywhere when someone is in need. There is "no other way to look at the situation."

Benaya also talked a lot about how individuals do everything they can to help the soldiers, whether this involves offering to do soldiers' laundry, cooking home food, or even solely giving their love and appreciation to all the soldiers working endlessly to protect the State of Israel. Over Benaya's drone operating course, he took when he first arrived in Israel a few weeks ago, he was hitchhiking on the way back from the course, and he raised his hand for a moment, and a kind woman stopped for him. She took him to where he needed to go, and she gave him cooked food before he took off. Benaya says, "There is this amazing spirit in the streets everywhere. It is a wonderful feeling that we are united and people truly care about each other."

Benaya is one of eight children, with four of his brothers in the IDF. On Benaya's day off, he met with a few of his brothers who also serve in the army. They sat down for lunch, and the restaurant owner gave them free dessert and bags of food to take with them. One of Benaya's brothers is currently a commander in Jerusalem hotels with families who had to evacuate their homes in Sderot because of the recent attacks fired from Gaza. Another brother of Benaya is a psychologist and has been traveling all over the world to help individuals with family members kidnapped in Gaza.

Another experience Benaya encountered during his day off was when he walked into a music shop, and the owner gifted him two guitars to give to the soldiers in his unit. They appreciated this significantly. These simple, kind gestures, as well as the collective efforts, demonstrate a strong sense of solidarity and appreciation for the sacrifices made by Israeli soldiers like Benaya. According to Benaya, "No one in Israel has ever experienced such a horrific accident, but also no one in Israel has experienced such tremendous power, energy, togetherness, and love."

Benaya was fortunate enough to be able to come home to his family for Thanksgiving, but he will be returning to Israel soon to continue defending the Jewish people and the State of Israel. As a Barrack community, we send our thoughts and prayers to Benaya and fervently hope for his safety and that he can return soon.


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