A brother of a daughter’s friend went to a party with fifty and returned with three – navigating through a nightmare.

By Dov Yarden

Friday afternoon, Erev Shabbat, October 13, 2023

It has been a week since the war started, and I feel a need to write. I am not a writer. I am not writing this for any specific audience. I don’t even know who I will send this to. I am however a father, a husband, and a citizen of Israel for over 37 years, since the age of 18. I grew up here. I served in the army. I married and raised a family. I worked for 20 years in hi-tech and now 16 years in the pro-Israel advocacy arena. I need to express what I, an ordinary citizen, am currently experiencing. What I write may just be the ramblings of a worried father, or may assist others to better understand what is happening on the home front. My wife Rivka and I have five wonderful children. Our eldest Yoeli is 32 years old and with special needs. He lives in an assisted living apartment in Jerusalem with five other boys but as his counselors have all been called up to the front lines, he is now living with us. Next is our daughter Abigail (Abby) who is married to Eitan and they have two nine-month old twin girls. They live on the fourth floor of an apartment building in Jerusalem. Their Miklat (communal safe room) is on the ground floor. When the air-raid sirens sound in Jerusalem to warn of incoming missiles they have less than 90 seconds to grab the girls and run down four flights of stairs. We have asked (actually begged) them to come and stay with us but they still prefer to be in their own home. Abby is an EMT and trainee ambulance driver for MDA (Magen David Adom) and prefers to stay in their neighborhood in case of emergency. Danieli and Avishai are our 21-year-old twins. Danieli is doing hesder – a combination of Yeshiva study and army service and recently, Avishai completed three years of army service as a combat medic in the Combat Intelligence Unit on the Gaza border. Our youngest, 18-year-old Shironi, began as a first-aid giver at MDA at the age of 16 and by the age of 17 was certified to teach the first-aid course to youth and put in charge of assigning youth to ambulances. She was awarded one of Jerusalem’s top 10 youth influencers and received an award from the mayor. Having over the past few months buried a number of friends killed in terror attacks around the country, she is enlisting to a combat unit and has signed on to do an extended service, the same as men, instead of the shortened service that women can do. She is also training to try out for a commando unit. Sorry for the long introduction, but I need to explain the background prior to getting into what happened this week.

Under Fire in Jerusalem. People take shelter in Jerusalem on Monday, October 9. (Photo Tamir Kalifa/The New York Times/Redux)

My in-laws and a friend from England joined us for Shabbat/Simchat Torah. Our three youngest, Danieli, Avishai and Shironi were at home which doesn’t happen often due to their army/MDA commitments. Friday night/simchat Torah, I had the joyous pleasure of dancing in shul (synagogue) with my boys while their grandparents watched and enjoyed lots of nachas. We had a wonderful family dinner with singing, divrei Torah and delicious food. On Shabbat morning I went to shul. And then all hell broke loose. Air raid sirens kept going off. We kept on taking cover in shul, but there was no safe room. Avishai hurried to shul to inform me that Danieli, Shironi and Shironi’s friend (Talia – also an EMT) who was also with us for Shabbat, received emergency calls from MDA to come immediately to MDA. Prayer services are cut short. The kiddush is cancelled. Singing and dancing with the Torah is deferred. I “run” home with my 86-year-old father-in-law who walks extremely slowly with a walking stick… Danieli returns home. He had assisted MDA set up a blood donation station at their Headquarters. Shironi and Talia had jumped into an ambulance. Danieli has been ordered immediately back to his army base. As I prepared to drive him (on Shabbat) to the meeting point, he was asked to pick up another soldier who was not answering his phone. We drove to Bayit Vegan. The soldier was not home, he was in shul. We drove to the shul to find him, and on the way passed another soldier who had been ordered to report to the pickup point. I took all three of them to the pickup point. With a hug and the priestly blessing, I said goodbye to Danieli.

Blood and Tears. War raging, Israelis show up to donate blood across the country. (Photo taken in Tel Aviv, Moti Kimchi)

There are no words. Only tears.

He called later that day, on Shabbat, to say that he had arrived at his base. He said that he is doing this for his nieces, for us, for his family and all of Am Yisrael – the people of Israel. He has to give his phone in to his commander and we won’t be able to talk. He is calling to say “goodbye”.

How is a father meant to respond when he has tears running down his face? There are no words.

Danieli is now down south. His unit assisted in clearing out and securing one of the yishuvim (settlements) next to Gaza. He is now at a staging area near Gaza training and waiting for the order “to go in”.

Avishai spent five days badgering the army to call him up for reserve duty. He called all of his commanders up and down the chain of command, who all told him to be patient. “I just want to be with Danieli and go into Gaza with him”, he says.

There are no words. Only tears.

Over the past few days we had a number of conversations. Should he just go to his base and see what happens? There is a group of medics getting together to go down and volunteer, should he join them? What is a father meant to answer? I love having him at home, knowing that he is safe. Why on earth should I voluntarily send him to war? On the other hand, he spent three years of his life training for this. He knows the border area as well as anyone. He is a Zionist, an Israeli and he loves his country.

The bottom line is I made aliya at the age of 18 from Sydney, Australia. It was a one-way ticket. I left my home and family for what I believed in. And that is what I told him. We all must make decisions in life in which there are no guaranteed outcomes. The choice is his and I will understand, love, and support him in whatever he decides. Yesterday his wish came true – he was called up. Once again, with a never-ending hug and the priestly blessing we said goodbye.

There are no words. Only tears.

Arriving at Bakum (the army mobilization base), he told them that he only wants to be sent to Gaza and not up north. This morning he called to say that they called out a list of names and were told that if their name was called to get on the bus. His name was called, he had to get on the bus, and the bus was going north.

Prior to departing, they read through the list of names again to ensure that everyone was on the bus. They called out his name and when checked, told my Avishai to get off the bus! Getting off the bus he met up with four other boys who had done the medics course with him and all put on Tefillin and davened shacharit – the morning prayer service. Ten minutes later they were all instructed to go home. He was processed and entered into the system as a reservist. He was given a uniform, a medical checkup and they x-rayed his teeth. For the non-Israelis reading this, the meaning of this is that the army has a way of identifying our children if G-d forbid the worst happens to them. As I type this, Avishai is on his way home and on stand-by for further orders.

There are no words. Only tears.

Since Shabbat morning, Shironi helped set up and operate the blood drive station in the Malcha sports arena. They have been collecting blood from approximately a thousand people each day. People have been lining up for up to 5-6 hours a day in order to donate. She has been volunteering from 9.00am in the morning until midnight each and every day. On Monday night, after returning home from MDA, she broke down. The tears were unending. She wanted to wake up from this nightmare. She wanted the nightmare to stop.

Why couldn’t we turn the clock back and prevent this from happening?

Where is G-d???

She had seen the videos of the atrocities Hamas inflicted on innocent civilians – men, women, children, and babies. She saw the videos of what happened to the hostages. She was the first one to tell us that the reported numbers of murdered people are far less than reality. Her friends’ brother was at the Supernova music festival and was originally reported missing for two days until he was found to be alive. He went to the party with fifty friends. He came back with three.

There are no words. Only tears.

Which brings me to the incredible morale that is taking place in Israel. Last week we were fighting over whether we could dance in the street in Tel Aviv on Simchat Torah. Today we are united. Speaking/whatsapping Danieli intermittently, we hear and understand his and our soldier’s willingness to do whatever is necessary to wipe out Hamas. The pictures and videos that are going viral of our children singing and dancing on their army bases are true reflections of their morale. They understand the importance of the moment and will give everything for their country. There is no limit as to the amount of food, underwear, army supplies, and protective gear that has been collected to give to our soldiers. A special unit in the army has been set up to receive and distribute the goods. Everyone has opened their houses to host people, whether it is family or complete strangers from the South, North or soldiers serving nearby. The outpouring of love, unity and responsibility for each other is overwhelming. There are no words. Only tears. By now, we have all seen the horrific pictures and videos of the terror attacks that took place. I am unable to put into words my feelings and emotions. It is, in all honesty, too traumatic. There are no words. Only tears.

We have suffered unbelievable losses. Over the past 30+ years, I have buried way too many friends and neighbors killed in terror attacks. I cry every time an Israeli is killed or injured by terrorists. Over 1300 murdered is simply incomprehensible. I cannot wrap my head around it.

There are no words. Only tears.

The ground incursion in Gaza will not be easy and not without cost. But we have no choice. We do not have another country. We have full faith in G-d and in our army. The government has many tough decisions ahead of them – not just regarding Gaza, but also Hezbollah and Iran. There is not a family in Israel that does not know someone who has been killed. Rivka’s second cousin, Colonel Yonatan Steinberg commander of the 933rd “Nahal” Brigade. Danieli and Avishai’s classmate, Cpl. Ofir Testa, 21, a soldier in the 7th Armored Brigade. Many of Avishai’s unit (414) that he served with until 6 weeks ago and were on the Gaza border last weekend, were killed. One of Shironi’s medics father, Arthur Markovichi, who was guarding the music festival in the south was killed. His body was identified yesterday. Our 18-years-old Shironi was appointed the point person to coordinate between the family and the Jerusalem municipality regarding all forms of assistance. She is currently at his funeral.

Murder of a Medic. People mourn at the grave of paramedic Amit Man during her funeral in Netivot, Israel, on Tuesday, October 10. She was fatally shot along with patients she was treating in Be’eri, Israel. The self-sustaining farming community near Gaza was one of the first places targeted by Hamas killer squads on Saturday. (Photo Tamir Kalifa/The New York Times/Redux)

Our family are due to move to Ashkelon in three months. This war has only strengthened our resolve to join our brothers and sisters in defending our country. What is a father and husband to do? I have been pushing off writing this and left it till last because it is too difficult to even contemplate, let alone attempt to put something coherent in writing. I don’t know. I honestly do not know. I don’t have an answer. I have spent my life raising and protecting my family. What now? I am unable to do anything. These events are beyond my control. All I can do is give out hugs. My name is Dov. It is Hebrew for “bear”. When Shironi is having nightmares, I give her a bear hug. When I take my sons to the army meeting point, I give them a bear hug. When we light Shabbat candles, and throughout the endless ups and downs, I give my wife a bear hug. I wish my father was still alive. I also need a hug.

And through it all, there are no words. Only tears.

This Shabbat we are lighting an additional Shabbat candle in memory, in hope, in prayer, in thanksgiving, in solidarity and in the pursuance of lasting peace. We are also lighting a yahrzeit/memorial candle in memory of our murdered brothers and sisters. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families who have lost loved ones; the families of those who do not know the fate of those missing or taken hostage, and our injured. May G-d grant a full and speedy recovery to our injured, and comfort those who have lost loved ones. There is also not a family in Israel that does not have a member of family in the army. Walking along our street, neighbors greet each other with a hug and inquire about their sons and daughters that are somewhere out there protecting us. We are all one family. We are all in this together. May G-d protect all of our brave soldiers and security personnel and return them home safely. And when they do, I will be here to hug and to hold them as tightly as I can.

With blessings of peace from Jerusalem,

Am Yisrael Chai

Dov Yarden

About the writer:
A hi-tech entrepreneur for over 20 years, Dov Yarden was one of the founders of Unicorn Solutions, a software development company for metadata management that was acquired by IBM. After completing high school in Australia, Dov made Aliya to Israel in 1988 and served in the IDF. A Business Entrepreneurship graduate from Hebrew University, Dov is today Chief Operating Officer of Jewish News Syndicate (, responsible for all aspects of JNS’s operations.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)


  1. One can only join you when you write: “There are no words. Only tears.”
    Yet not forgetting these words: “Never again!”

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