Yehuda’s Hasid’s childhood memories often involve his father telling him stories and anecdotes from his military service. On Shabbat afternoons, he listened on as his father repeatedly told the story of how he met his mother during the First Lebanon War. “The closer I got to my enlistment date, the more anxious I became. As I heard more and more of my father’s time in the army, I wanted to be just like him,” Yehuda says.
The enlistment process was going smoothly, and Yehuda had passed his first test to reach an elite combat unit in the IDF. Shortly thereafter, fate spoiled his plan to follow in his father’s footsteps. On Yehuda’s 18th birthday, his father greeted him in the morning and went to work. “That was the last time I saw him alive,” said Yehuda.
“He had been called up to service in the reserves and, that day, he did not return. His boss came to our home and told me: ‘your father has died. How do we tell your mother?’ Then my entire life collapsed, and I broke down. I immediately dropped out of all of my examinations and gave up on my dream of being a fighter in the IDF, like my father. It was my mother who forced me to keep going. She convinced me not to give up on my dream and it was her who kept it alive.”
Eventually, Yehuda joined the Israel Border Police. A year later in Gaza, while caught in the middle of a confrontation with terrorists, a grenade exploded beside him. The wounds were severe. Shrapnel was embedded in his limbs and, still today, Yehuda has chips from the grenade ingrained in his throat and heart. “The recovery process was gruelling, but the encouragement I got from my family and fellow soldiers in my unit motivated me to continue. I wanted to return to service as soon as possible.”
Almost two years later, just as Yehuda was about to finish his compulsory service and fulfill his second dream, starting officer’s course, fate once again made a bad move.
Yehuda and his friends went out for drinks to celebrate the completion of their compulsory service. When it came time to return home, Yehuda chose to get behind the wheel. “Since I drank the least among my friends, and because we thought a taxi would have been too expensive, I made the stupid decision to drive that night. But what does a bit of money matter when it comes to life itself?”
He fell asleep at the wheel as the car he was driving hit another vehicle. Luckily, no one died in the accident. Yehuda, however, was very seriously injured. He lost his memory for over two months, and he didn’t recognize himself or the circle of loved ones around him.
This time, the rehabilitation process was much longer and more arduous. “I felt useless,” Yehuda explains, looking back. “I was once handsome and muscular and, in one second, I suddenly became a useless rag. My younger brother looked at me and knew that I would no longer be the same.”
As a result of wounds, the IDF lowered Yehuda’s medical profile, claiming he was no longer fit serve in combat. But Yehuda insisted that he continue. “My family supported me all the way through. Without their help, I would not have made it to where I am today. They, along with my father, who has remained my pillar of strength, kept me going through the everyday hurdles.” With the help of his family, peers, and medical team, Yehuda was able to remain in the military reserves.
After the Second Lebanon War, in which Yehuda participated as a reservist in an elite combat unit, the IDF offered him the chance to resume his military service. The dream once again became tangible and, after a few months, Yehuda officially began his officer’s course. None of it came easily. However, Yehuda knows he is privileged to have been able to pass the course.
“I have two commanders who fought for me against all odds and, because of them, I was able to finish the course. Unfortunately, I cannot share their names, but they know I am eternally grateful,” Yehuda says.
“I know it sounds a bit poetic, but we have no other country,” he said when we ask him why he wanted to continue serving in the IDF. “I believe in our country and, for me, it is an honor to wear this uniform.”
Yehuda has immense appreciation for those who helped him recover through his many difficulties. “It’s not just a saying that ‘behind every man is a woman,’” Yehuda laughs. “My wife, Elinor, supported me and encouraged me to fulfill my dream. I know many women who would not allow their husband to be away from home, in a combat role, six months out of the year, especially while she was pregnant.”
Yehuda hopes to soon be a commander of a squad in a combat unit. “Just like my father, who was the light that guided me at all times, I know I can be the father figure to guide my soldiers and make them feel protected.”