Sunday, January 28, 10:27 p.m.

Even though this war has continued for nearly four months, and our soldiers miss their homes and their families, we are still prepared to do whatever is needed. To continue pushing toward elusive but important goals. To protest, if needed, against a premature end to this battle.

Even though the unity of those first few weeks has worn off, and the entire nation rallying around a common purpose has given way to political infighting and questionable leadership, countless volunteers are still cooking and baking and farming and fundraising. They haven’t lost sight of what unites us. They wear their love for their fellow man on their sleeves, because they know we are in this together.

Even though we have lost so many soldiers and so many have been injured and there are units whose losses seem almost too much to bear, our army is still filled with fearless warriors and untiring men and women who wake up day or night and head into danger with steely eyes, cognizant of what they are fighting to protect.

Even though we are humans — and human beings do get overwhelmed and frustrated and disillusioned — we are still empathetic and unstoppable and motivated and pure.

Even though many of us have seen too many horrible things and managed too many heartbreaking situations and could be forgiven for losing ourselves, we have not. We still feel sad when the helicopter passing overhead is that of a medevac. We still hold our breath when we find a sign of our hostages. We still grieve when a tank passes the body of a little girl.

Even though 114 days have passed, we have not forgotten October 7. We have not forgotten the murdered and the massacred, the raped and mutilated, the kidnapped and the missing. The communities and the families who will be forever changed.

V’nikeiti dammam lo nikeiti — v’adonai shochen be’zion. (I have cleaned their blood, and yet it is not clean, for me. Yet God still dwells in Zion.)

Monday, January 29, 11:53 p.m.

My overnight shift gave me a chance to review our operations log, and to remember the intensity and raw experience of the first few days of this war.

Those memories were still fresh in my mind in the early afternoon, when I joined Gabrielle and a group from our community for a short visit to the site of the Nova music festival and massacre. I’m sure the experience felt raw for the hundreds of visitors we saw there, but for me the site already feels curated and sanitized, a stark difference from the forest filled with burnt-out vehicles, tents, and bodies that I remember from my first days here.

On my way back to my base, I stopped briefly at the bomb shelters at the entrance to Kibbutz Re’im, where memorial candles are lit next to gouged-out areas of concrete, twin testaments to those murdered here when terrorists tossed grenades into the crowded shelters.

Upon returning, I noticed a group of soldiers tending the memorial grove on the base, where each tree has a sign in memory of a fallen soldier from a unit posted here. The group was moving two rows of tall fir trees to make space for a full new row of tiny saplings.

I went to sleep in preparation for another night shift. But I was awoken by the sound of music and found my way to a sight that brought me to tears. A crowd of soldiers and civilians, religious and nonreligious, young and old, dancing their hearts out to a jumble of electronic trance music and Jewish music.

On October 6, we were a country divided, ripped apart by political disagreement, uncertain of our future as a society.

On October 7, an enemy bent on destroying us murdered more than 1,000 Israelis, including hundreds at a peaceful music festival.

On January 28, our differences haven’t disappeared, and our grief is deep, and our world has changed. But amid the disagreements and the debates and the grief, we are dancing together and finding joy, and I for one am certain that our future is bright.

Thursday, February 1, 9:24 p.m.

All things…

Just as we arrived in the middle of the night more than 100 days ago, so too our unit left Gaza overnight, under cover of darkness.

We did not emerge to a parade, to flowers thrown at us and whoops of victory or relief. Instead, we traveled in relative silence. Perhaps it was the late hour, half of us exhausted from a long shift and the other half just awake from a partial night’s sleep.

Perhaps we were weighed down by the events of our last day, during which a coordinated attack on our unit exacted a heavy price: an officer, whose regular job kept him at our operations center, but who stepped into a front-line role after prior attacks left one of our platoons short on commanders. One more fallen soldier. One more widow.

The war is not over yet — not even for us. We have another week of wrapping up, of summarizing, of debriefing. Of processing. And we don’t know what the future holds, what decisions may be made, whether by the IDF or by our enemies in the south and the north, that could bring us back into service. If we are called, we stand ready to return to the incontrovertible goal of protecting our land and our country and our families.

A heavy feeling burdens me today. I am proud — exceptionally proud — of our work and clear on our tactics. And I do not see that there was any other way. But I am also keenly aware that while wars can be started with violence, they can rarely be concluded only through violence. And I am also aware of the soldiers who won’t be coming home with us, the hostages who haven’t yet been returned, my fellow Israelis whose homes haven’t been safe for 17 years.

But we have not been idle. Since October 7, we have operated 24/7 as a combat brigade on the front line of a war against unimaginably evil, morally bankrupt enemies. We uncovered and dismantled an unbelievable amount of terrorist infrastructure. We took major steps to make life safer for those who live near Gaza. And for each of us, our life was put on hold, company and career suffered, a spouse and children and parents learned to carry on without us.

Soon, we return to them. Physically at first, emotionally over time. And even though we do not return whole, even though we bring with us the fallen and injured, we return with our heads held high and our eyes lifted to the horizon.

I have no better words with which to conclude this post than a quote from the prophet Ezekiel that is recited on Pesach, when we commemorate the exodus from Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. Then, too, we emerged proud — not unscathed, but with eyes toward a better life and a better future.

Va’omar lach bedamayich chayi, va’omar lach bedamayich chayi. (And I will say to you, though you have bled: Live! And I say again: though you have bled: Live.)

Wednesday, February 7, 10:09 p.m.

I will remember.

I will remember racing out the door exactly four months ago, on October 7, into the unknown, without enough time to comfort my three children, whose tears had begun to flow.

I will remember driving south in the middle of the night in full battle gear, weaving around roadblocks and around armaments that had fallen off trucks during the hasty mobilization, to arrive at a base that had been infiltrated the day before.

I will remember the frenetic pace of the first few days of war: sleeping under the open sky on a bench five feet from our bomb shelter, dashing for cover regularly, the pace of 8-8 shifts blurring the nights and days into one.

I will remember sitting at the radio and hearing the report of our first casualty, killed in a split second by a falling mortar. The look in the eyes of our brigade commander as he stepped out the door to take a call with a mother and father who were yet to learn the horrible truth.

I will remember seeing what I thought was a study group at the back of the shul on base, but which turned out to be a graphic training session on the recovery of mutilated bodies.

I will remember finding my first bed: an unoccupied mattress in a room of the rescue commandos of Unit 669.

I will remember the convoy to Kibbutz Be’eri, with beautiful fields of green quickly turning into an apocalyptic landscape of burnt-out cars and ripped tents as we passed the site of the massacre at the Nova music festival.

I will remember sitting under a tree in Be’eri, helping think of names with a father whose youngest son had been born two hours earlier. We were 20 feet away from the health clinics where several local residents had made their last stand against terrorists. The only survivors were those who successfully played dead among the actual dead bodies of their neighbors and friends.

I will remember the looks on the faces of the teams coming back from the field after a day collecting bodies. The stench of a bag full of Kalashnikov magazines taken from dead terrorists. The expression of an officer who believed, but wasn’t sure, that one of the bodies he had collected was that of his own niece.

I will remember walking through Be’eri before I rotated to a different position. The sights and smells of homes whose families had been murdered or kidnapped. The bizarre contrasts, such as the tote bag reading “Happy holidays from Kibbutz Be’eri” that hung in the coat closet of a murdered couple. The sight of burnt pages of holy text in a box on a living-room floor. A pristine photo album sitting on a coffee table amid utter destruction.

I will remember how much of a stranger I felt on my first leave. The quietude and cleanliness, the soft bed, the people in the streets. How much harder it was for me to leave home then, since we knew where I was headed, and how it was only when I arrived back at base that I finally felt recalibrated.

I will remember giving the Friday-night blessings with Gabrielle to our children before Shabbat, with me on the phone and everyone in tears. I will remember how my son would stay off screen when I called, because it was too hard to see me far away knowing that I wasn’t coming home anytime soon.

I will remember the feelings of being out of step with the civilian world. Of being aware of tragedies but not of the names or the faces. Of constantly encountering the raw reality but never having the time or resources to grieve. And the dissonance of being one step ahead on the battles fought in Gaza and one step behind on the surging wave of global antisemitism.

I will remember a Friday-night service interrupted by rocket fire. I didn’t have enough time to make it to shelter but instead lay exposed, unprotected, prostrated in front of the ark of our shul, whispering the words of the Yom Kippur service under my breath.

I will remember the constant, unfiltered reminders of the depravity of Hamas — not only their brutality against our women, children, and elderly, but against their own as well. And I will remember our pride in the morality and humanity of our tactics, pride that never wavered in tactics that grew only more and more ethical over time.

I will remember the taste of soup served with an immense amount of love by a family of Yemenite Jews, outside our main gate, at 1 in the morning.

I will remember the leave that began at a barbershop full of soldiers from every unit imaginable, with weapons of every shape and size. And that concluded when I got pulled in front of my daughter’s first-grade class and thanked for my service by a teacher with multiple children serving in Gaza and a vacant smile on her face.

I will remember the time — both times — that members of our community showed up at my base and barbecued for a hundred soldiers. And so many others who came as well — a retired officer bearing dozens of quiches, an older French couple who prepared omelets — and the constant presence of burgers at support tents near our base, centers of volunteer efforts in the area.

I will remember the night when we finally let go, when we finally allowed ourselves to look back to October 7 and to ask ourselves hard questions about what we did, what we didn’t do, what we should have done.

I will remember the sound of birds to which I awoke on the first day of the pause in fighting, the dramatic change it heralded as we shifted from battle to watchfulness.

I will remember hearing a simple phrase uttered on the radio, anachnu na’im batzir al pi tichnun (we are traveling on the route per the plan), which meant that 14 hostages had been rescued and brought home to Israel.

I will remember huddling in the rain under camouflage netting as we listened to the civilian commander of the security team at Kibbutz Re’im describe the battle he had fought from his own home, saving an entire town. The pain in his voice as he spoke of clearing rooms with grenades on Israeli soil. The fact that the only way he could accurately describe what had happened was to constantly return to the term “miracle.”

I will remember the surreality of walking with a mission of American philanthropists through one of the towns we had cleared of terrorists. How difficult I found it to speak about not just the horrors they had witnessed but also the permanence of the bomb shelters that had stood there for years, a symbol of the government’s failure to resolve the security threats from Gaza until they exploded across the border on October 7.

I will remember my own sense of shock and dread when I watched as the president of my alma mater failed to condemn calls for genocide against the Jews, during her testimony in front of Congress and the world.

I will remember the words of my former teacher, Rabbi Chaim Sabato, who wrote that “it is not in front of the cabinets of other nations, sitting in judgment over the fate of Israel and our homeland — but in front of You, the Creator of the World, that we will be judged.”

I will remember the clear and powerful voice of an officer I’ve known for more than 20 years, who had just been pulled, injured, from a scene where he had lost five of his soldiers, trying to retain command over the evacuation of all of those who were hurt but still alive.

I will remember standing at the funeral of one of those soldiers, a native of my hometown, Modi’in, and listening to the screaming sobs of his newly widowed wife as she spoke about their children, as I held onto Gabrielle for dear life.

I will remember sitting in an auditorium with all of our officers and commanders, readying ourselves to enter a town in Gaza that hadn’t yet been entered. (It was the hometown of many of the worst perpetrators of the massacres of October 7.) Listening to officer after officer — from intelligence, combat engineering, neighboring units, our division command — telling us that this was going to be the battle of our lives. And being unable to say anything about it — not even to my wife — until it was over.

I will remember my trip to teams in the field, to the tanks and the spotters and the special forces, and speaking to them about the days ahead fewer than 24 hours before they went into Gaza on that same mission. And the drive back to my base, past Nir Oz, the town whose hostages we were heading in to look for.

I will remember the way, throughout that mission, that we kept waiting for the other shoe to drop — how we kept asking each other, “How was your shift?” and hoping to keep hearing the same answer: “Quiet.”

I will remember the first RPG attack on our forces, and playing a role in the medical evacuation. I will remember the second attack. And the third. And the fourth. And the fifth.

I will remember the day we found items covered in blood in a house in Gaza. The sense of accomplishment mixed with grief mixed with horror when we were able to confirm that they belonged to three Israeli hostages.

I will remember January 1, hearing toward the end of my shift that our unit had sighted several rockets being launched from Gaza, and wondering whether any of those soldiers were unknowingly watching rockets launched at their own families. And then coming off duty and checking my phone to learn that I was one of those soldiers, and it was my own family under fire.

I will remember hearing that Battalion 7020, of which I was formerly a member, lost one of their soldiers when their vehicle was hit by an RPG in a neighboring sector.

I will remember the maelstrom of medical evacuations. The way they would spur our entire unit into controlled chaos. The sight of an officer standing on her chair whispering into a phone. The feeling that my ability to accelerate our work by 60 or 90 seconds might save a life. And the sudden return to routine after each event — the חזל״ש.

I will remember the feelings of relief and joy when our unit emerged from Khirbet Achza’a, knowing we had done battle for two weeks, changed the future of life in Nir Oz, and were emerging without any casualties.

I will remember the times when we found the smallest of clues that later determined we had evidence that some of our hostages were dead. And the time it was mentioned in a briefing without warning, triggering a sudden emotional wail from one of the toughest and most professional officers I’ve ever met.

I will remember sipping tea in a quaint apartment in Tel Aviv, when Gabrielle and I set out to return a photo album to its owner’s surviving brother, while a nation buried 21 of its sons in light winter rain.

I will remember the devastation of losing one of our officers on my unit’s last day in Gaza, during the last hours of our mission, a heartbreaking conclusion to our brigade’s efforts in this war. The contradictory mix of heavy grief, tired relief, and unbridled joy the next morning at sunrise, when we stood on the beach next to Gaza and marked the end of our operations.

I will remember much, much more than I can write here. Anecdotes and feelings and snippets of my reality that don’t make for a compelling story and don’t connect to anything specific and cannot be understood by anyone who wasn’t there, but that are no less meaningful to me than anything else I’ve written. And that, for the most part, are more personal as well.

I will remember the masses of humanity streaming into our base on October 7 and 8. Drafted soldiers and retired officers and random civilians arriving with food and clothing and flags and toiletries and anything else they could think to donate. I will hold firm to the belief that hundreds of thousands of such people will overcome our society’s differences, and that the end of this war will usher in a new period of growth and vitality and unity that will shape Israeli society and the Jewish people for generations to come. The knowledge that October 7 was a tragedy, but that the months since then will have a profound impact on the next generation of Israeli leadership, those that served in this war. I intend to be a part of it in whatever way I can.

One of my favorite Israeli songs has a line:

Lehitraot, shalom, zeh lo nigmar, zeh rak hasof. (See you later, goodbye, it’s not over, this is just the end.)

Ironically, the band sang those words repeatedly at the final concert before they broke up in the mid-’90s…and then came back together again, years later.

The war isn’t yet over. I don’t even know for certain whether my part in it as a soldier is over. When we returned our gear to our unit’s warehouses, we didn’t sign them back to the army as in the past. Instead, we refreshed our gear, packed our duffels, cleaned our weapons, and stored all of it under our own names.

I will not offer my thoughts here on what might lie down the road. Whether in Gaza or in the north or anywhere else. But if and when that day comes: My unit and I will be ready to answer the call.

Until then, thank you for reading.