Former IDF lone soldier Leibel Mangel wrote a heartwrenching poem after Operation Protective Edge in 2014, in which he lost three fellow soldiers and friends. He is publishing it here on United with Israel for the first time on the occasion of Yom Hazikaron, when Israel mourns its fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Despite the profound losses, the Jewish nation will never give up.
We just got the word that another brother was taken from us.
I stop in my tracks. I collapse to my knees.
The bullets still whizzing on by, the explosions still ringing in our ears.
The ground shaking beneath us.
For a moment though, all is still.
For a moment, the silence becomes deafening.
Clutching my weapon, I stare up at heaven.
Tears run down my face.
G-D, I don’t know how much more of this my heart can take.
Just 19 years old. A man, but at the same time just a child.
Another family destroyed.
Another father and mother that will never dance at their son’s wedding.
Another helping hand and warm embrace from an older brother that will be but a distant memory.
How are we supposed to move on? How many tears must be shed? How much blood must be spilled? How many funeral must we attend?
How much more must we sacrifice?
How many of our fathers, sons, and brothers will you continue to take?
Please, make it stop.
For a moment, I am ready to give up. I can’t do this, I simply have had enough.
As an explosion rocks the city, I come back to my senses.
We are warriors of Israel.
We are fighters for the Jewish people.
“If not me, then who?”
This is our mentality.
We fight till the end, to honor the sacrifice of so many who came before us.
We fight till the end, because of our love for who and what stand behind us.
We cry. We hurt. We feel indescribable pain.
Still, we never stop fighting.
Still, we never stop living.
This is strength. This is pride.
… We just got word that another brother was taken from us…
To my 23,544 brothers and sisters: you are my heroes not because you died.
You are my heroes because of how badly you wanted to live. How badly you wanted your family and your people to live.
I promise you, no matter how much pain, no matter how many tears, I will never stop fighting.
I will never stop fighting to give parents the joy of dancing at their child’s wedding.
I will never stop fighting to give siblings another embrace with their brother or sister.
I will never stop fighting to give our people the blessing of LIVING.
I will never stop fighting for our uniform, country, and people – that the world so desperately wishes to destroy.
I salute you now and forever.
Am Yisrael Chai! The nation of Israel lives!