From the Jewish Agency for Israel.

By Tamir Porter

This past Tuesday I got a call  early in the morning to come quickly to the museum because an elite IDF unit that just came back from a battle in Lebanon wanted to  spend a few hours in the   GFH Museum.

It wasn’t easy to get there since the entire region is constantly under katushas attacks and sirens go off and are followed by explosions all around. I called a nervous taxi driver while talking on my cell with the platoon commander – a young officer ,  trying to understand what kind of activities he wanted us  to plan for his soldiers. What I had in mind is to prepare the youth hostel rooms we have at the museum, turn on the hot water and air conditioning so the soldiers would be able to shower and rest first.

“…No” said the commander. “…we want to come for some educational sessions so the young soldiers would get a deeper perspective on the history of the museum and the kibbutz that was founded by Holocaust survivors after they stood up against the Nazis at the Warsaw ghetto uprising. ….I want them to get a perspective on the region they are fighting to protect…”

I prepared to welcome them, arranged the  coffee and cakes and turned on the air conditioning. They came in as I knew they would, dirty and tired but willing to talk, to learn and to share feelings.

They are 19 year old kids who had just experienced their first battle. I decided to open the visit with free flowing discussion about their feelings, their sense of mission and their fears after losing two  of their friends at the first battle of ground forces in Lebanon. I listened, giving space , as they  started to open up and talked about their families and their homes, all the while with the surreal background of non stop sirens and katushas explosions..

“It’s not the fear to die” said one soldier …”…it’s the fear of how my mom and dad would cope with it….and my girl friend …what would happen to her….”

” What bonds us is our 2 years comradery and the  sense of duty and mission…” said another

Another soldier started to talk about his sense of duty to protect his country that is stronger then his fear of dying and how as the battle got uglier the fear started to take over, playing a more significant role in their young, cocky “ready to fight” set of mind.

Another soldier talked about the growing obstinacy as the battle developed.
Then I asked them what exhibit they would like to see. “The Warsaw ghetto uprising exhibit” they said.

At the exhibit I first talked about the vibrant, rich Jewish lives in Warsaw and how all this was crashed and destroyed by the Germans. Then they started to talk about the purpose of the uprising and what characterized the rebels and distinguished  them from the other half a million Jews there.
Slowly we started to “connect the dots” – the history of the Western Galilee, the history of the Holocaust survivors – who arrived in Israel as young and determined as these soldiers are now. We talked about the survivors’ lives as they stood up to the Nazis in the uprising at the Warsaw Ghetto. I shared with them the story of the survivors’ determination to come to Israel to build a kibbutz and a museum so close to the Lebanese border.

These IDF soldiers are fighting now to stop the suffering of hundreds of thousands of civilians living under constant threat on their lives and homes.

It was a unique, moving experience for me to see how those young soldiers are inspired and getting their strength from history and from those civilians that they are risking their lives to protect.