Veterans Day was celebrated in the Five Towns the day before, but there was no lack of patriotism and respect for military personal as the sixth annual Honor Day delegation was saluted for their service in the Israel Defense Forces at Young Israel of Woodmere on Nov. 12.
Sponsored by El Ami, a nonprofit organization that financially supports soldiers wounded during combat in Israel, which also strives to enhance the connection to the Jewish identity through joint meetings around Jewish sources in a joyful and enlightened environment, the delegation’s visit was especially meaningful as Israel, once again, was under rocket fire that Monday. “It was a difficult day in Israel, today,” YIOW Rabbi Hershel Billet said.
Ret. Brigadier General Avigdor Kahalani, also a former Israeli Cabinet member and minister, headed the delegation that included Liran Baroch, Major Elior Dor nicknamed “Dubcheck,” Roee Granitza and Niv Keshet who came to YIOW. Oren Or Bittoun and Dror Zicherman were also part of the delegation. All were wounded in combat. All visited different area schools, synagogues and other groups.
Baroch, 40, was a paratrooper. In 2000, a stone struck his left eye. Despite a several surgeries and a long rehabilitation process he lost sight in the eye. He is married with two children.
Keshet, 34, was an infantry soldier in the unit that fights terrorism. He became a squad commander. In 2004, a person riding a bicycle detonated a bomb near Keshet. He was wounded but prevented a more serious attack. He had to endure a long rehabilitation.
Granitza, 34, suffered severe injuries including burns on his hands and feet and tears in his lungs in the Second Lebanon War in 2005. Underwent neurological respiratory rehab and outpatient treatment. A lawyer, he is married with a third child on the way.
Dor served in the IDF for 11 years. Wounded several times in combat, he always underwent rehabilitation and returned to active duty. Dor earned several commendations and is now attending law school. His motto is “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”
Recounting one battle story where he injured his hand, Dor said, “ We were first in line and can’t stop, you have to keep going. I put a bandage on my hand and didn’t tell my commanding officer about my injury until the end of the operation.”
Kahalani, 75, the second of two main speakers, spoke the longest as befitting a general and politician. His family settled in what is now the Jewish state in 1929. His father, Moshe, fought in the Israel War for Independence. “in 1949, when my father returned, he said, ‘You have a homeland and a flag,’” Kahalani said.
Noting that his father fought again in 1956, Kahalani after being conscripted to the IDF in 1962, commanded a company of Patton tanks from the 79th Battalion in the 1967 Six-Day War. He was badly wounded when his M-48 tank caught fire and was awarded the
Medal of Distinguished Service. As a 29-year-old lieutenant colonel and battalion commander, Kahalani was a hero in 1973 Yom Kippur War. The battle in the Golan Heights turned the war as the out numbered and outgunned IDF defeated the Syrian force. For his actions during the war he received the highest Israeli military decoration, the Medal of Valor.
“Generation to generation we protect the country,” Kahalani said about Israel’s soldiers. “We feel a responsibility for our country.”