July 18, 2024
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July 18, 2024
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I Just Sent Five of My Children to War

I woke up at 6:30 a.m. this past Shabbat/Simchat Torah to the sound of thunder and my light fixtures shaking. I opened the blinds and the sky was blue but the thunder continued. I went outside and saw streaks across the sky.

I woke up my wife and said, “Miriam, get up, I think we are at war.” Neighbors slowly started to come outside to see what was happening. We all have kids in the army or on reserve duty. Most of our kids were home for the Jewish holiday. Since we hadn’t heard any news we didn’t know what was happening and we went to synagogue as usual.

There were booms and clear signs of the Iron Dome throughout the service. At 8:45 a.m. we had our first of what would be many air raid sirens. After a few minutes in the bomb shelters we emerged and went on with the prayers. We danced a little, completed the reading of the Torah and started Genesis.

During this time young men in my shul started to get called up from the army. I asked my youngest son who is in active duty in the tank brigade called Shiryon if he got a call. He went and checked his phone and at that moment his commanding officer called him. He said that things were very serious and that he should start packing a bag as he would be called in later in the day.

Hillel and Miriam Scheinfeld

My wife and I have five children (four sons and a daughter); three of them are married and I have two granddaughters from my oldest son. I’m privileged that all of our four sons are in the infantry and a daughter-in-law in the air force.

I was asked to lead the prayers for the welfare of the state of Israel and the welfare of the soldiers at the Musaf service. As I put on my white kittel for the special prayers for rain recited on Shemini Atzeret and sang the words “to life and not death,” I could not stop thinking of the prospect of my son being deployed. The day felt more like Yom Kippur than Simchat Torah.

When I returned home my second son told me that he was called in and needed to urgently get to Tel Aviv where he would get a ride up to the north to join his soldiers. I quickly ran back to shul to ask the rabbi if I was allowed to drive him on Shabbat as I did not want him driving himself. I also asked if I could return home after and then take my youngest son, who was already called in. The rabbi answered in the affirmative.

I got home, my son packed his bag, said goodbye to his wife and our family and for the first time in my life I drove on Shabbat to take my son to defend our people and country. In the car we were talking about the situation and how crazy it was. We both felt nervous but the prevailing feeling was that now it was time to take care of business. Other cars on the road had passengers with soldiers going to their destination.

We finally got to his apartment where he packed his bag with the items he would need and we waited for his ride to come. As we were waiting, my son asked me if I wanted to learn or say Psalms to make good use of time. I was so proud of that; this is what he wanted to do while waiting to be taken to the front lines.

Someone from his unit arrived to take him, a non-religious soldier with his girlfriend. I gave my son the traditional blessing a father gives his son on a Friday night. In general, I’m a big crier but I knew I needed to be strong—strong for my son, strong for my family, strong for his friend and girlfriend. Strong for all soldiers. Here they were going into the unknown with so much motivation and courage; who was I to show weakness?

I turned to him and said, “I love you. Focus on what you need to do. Listen to your orders, trust your fellow soldiers, focus on your targets and mission, talk to God when you need to, say Psalms, and kick some Hamas butt. I’ll see you in a few weeks. We love you and can’t be more proud! We will take good care of your wife and everything she needs.” We hugged and the first son was on his way.

The Scheinfelds in earlier days.

As I started driving back home I get a call from my fourth son that he got the call and needed to go to Jerusalem to catch a bus down to his base near Eilat. I drove home and got ready for my next run. My oldest son then told me that he was also put on alert but not called in yet. I said to keep me posted.

My wife and daughter gave my fourth son a hug and we were off to Jerusalem. As we were driving the news was on and the reports started coming in and it was not good. I could see my son’s face and the nerves building up. What does a father say at that point? At the end of the news the radio station reported on the weather. I made a joke to my son that do we really care what the weather will be tomorrow right now? It was a great way to break the tension. The rest of the way we spoke about how proud I was of him and that once he sees his fellow soldiers and gets his orders he will feel better.

As we pulled into the parking area with tens of buses I could see hundreds of soldiers being dropped off by their parents, hugging each other. I gave my son the same blessing and same message as well. “I love you. Listen to your orders, trust your fellow soldiers, focus on your targets and mission, talk to God and kick some Hamas butt. I’ll see you in a few weeks. We love you and can’t be more proud!” With that we hugged and our second son was on his way.

As I got home it was time for Mincha, the afternoon service. I put my keys and phone away and walked to shul. When I got there my oldest son was there with me. He asked me what I knew and I said that I dropped off his two brothers and that the news was not great. He indicated that he had his phone on him as he was told to be ready. As we started praying, my son walked out. When he returned, he said that he was called up.

We walked home and he told his mother, his wife and two children that he is being deployed. He spent the next 20 minutes hugging his family. His three-year-old-daughter said, “Abba, I’m sorry you have to go, bye!” We got into the car again, and this time drove 150 kilometers to the border of Egypt to drop him off. As the sun set, we said while driving, “Baruch Hamavdil Ben Kodesh L’chol” ending Shabbat and Simchat Torah, and we called my wife. We wanted to hear about my third son and his wife who are part of special units in the army and air force. Our daughter-in-law was called onto base at 7 a.m. and our third son was going to be deployed later that night.

As my eldest and I arrived at his base, I could see the focus in his eyes and him getting ready mentally for what the next days and weeks would bring. For the third time that day I found myself giving the same speech and strength to my son. I put my hands on his head and gave him his blessing and said, “I love you. Focus on what you need to do. Listen to your orders, trust your fellow soldiers, focus on your targets and mission, talk to God when you need and say Psalms and kick some Hamas butt. I’ll see you in a few weeks. We love you and can’t be more proud! We will take good care of your wife and girls so no need to worry.” With that we hugged and the third son was on his way.

On the drive back home I was calling other friends and family whose kids were going in. My sister had two sons and two sons-in-law called up and everyone I spoke to was giving their kids strength as they went off. When I got home I met my second son’s in-laws who were picking up my daughter-in-law from our house and taking her to stay with them while my son was away.

At 11 p.m. my fourth son called me and said it was time to go. So back in the car I went, picking him up from his in-laws’ house and taking him to his base. My son said he felt bad asking me to pick him up as he knew I was driving all day. I said, “Don’t worry! It’s my absolute merit to be the designated army driver today.”

On the way to his base we passed a line of 15 tanks and army jeeps. The specter of war was already very real and getting more intense. This son is part of a unit I am not allowed to name here but his composure was that of a professional getting ready for a day at work. We talked about the days ahead and called his brothers so they could all speak together before I dropped him off. It was amazing to hear them all ranking on each other and in the end wishing each other the best of luck.

We finally arrived at the base and for the fourth time that day I said to him those unforgettable words that I told his brothers. We hugged each other and my son was on his way.

When I walked back to my car it was 1 a.m. on what may have been the longest, craziest Shabbat of my life. I sent the following message to my family WhatsApp group: “Ok everyone. Gavriel dropped off. That’s everyone! Be strong!! Love you all!! You all have the privilege to defend Am Yisrael, the Jewish Nation. I’m super proud of all of you!! See you all soon”!!!!

When I finally got home I gave my wife a hug and said, “We are fortunate to have such an amazing family. May God watch over them all and all of the amazing soldiers and everyone in Israel. Let’s try to get some sleep. It’s going to be a long haul.”

Please pray for our children Yechiel Asher ben Miriam Chaya, Zev Yisrael ben Miriam Chaya, Gavriel Eitan ben Miriam Chaya, Mordechai Yosef ben Miriam Chaya, and Shai bat Orli, in addition to all the soldiers, wounded and captives.

Hillel Scheinfeld moved to Israel 22 years ago. He has worked in banking and the high-tech sector for 27 years in various leadership positions and became the COO of Aish last year.

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