This is the Weblog of Mike from FreeRepublic.com, the head of the Christian Supporters of Israel list there. Just another rower down in the hold of the juggernaut which is the American Evangelical Christian support of Israel.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Ran Kohba, an architect and a helicopter-pilot

Ran Kohba, an architect and a helicopter-pilot
By Shimon Briman

He was the most modest out of two hundred of Israeli officers who came to Odessa in July 2004 by a special flight. That was a joint project of the Israeli Defense Forces and the "Jewish Agency for Israel". Never before have so many officers of all branches landed in the former USSR, never before the Israeli officers contacted directly with the Jewish youth of Ukraine.

One had to see it: the officers starting from the lieutenant and finishing with the general in uniform marched in column along one of the Odessa streets, stepping across the tram rails and singing loudly "Eveinu sholom aleihem". The traffic was blocked on both sides of the column. The "new Ukrainians" in their Jeeps stood without a complaint or beeping, astonished at the amazing view of the foreign troops. In front of the column between two standard bearers with the flags of Israel there marched an officer, two meters height, clasping the Torah roll to his bosom.

At the sound of Israeli military marches two hundred of senior pupils and students from the south of Ukraine greeted their militant guests, waving white-and-blue flags enthusiastically. At the ceremonial (and kosher) dinner both officers and students were specially placed in front of each other to help them establish contact.

Then officers and students divided into eight groups to have a more confiding talk. I had an honor to be a translator for one of those groups. Among young Ukrainians and officers sympathy immediately arose, although some questions of the students made the Israeli officers defend themselves.

The dispute that arose was over moral principles of the Israeli Defense Army. The smiling major informed that the ethic code of war prosecution is something that distinguishes the Jewish army. The students grumbled and rumbled something incoherent. The major - the deputy company commander of special purpose troops - said: "Ask what these guys think of our actions against terrorists". He shrunk at this questions waiting for accuse in excessive cruelty. But he was absolutely wrong!

The students from Odessa shouted out in chorus: "You bomb them not enough! You destroy less than enough! You need the most radical means against the nests of terrorism!" Israeli officers went open-mouthed with astonishment - they couldn't even imagine that the Jewish youth of Ukraine is more militantly thinking than them.

Picture by the author - On the picture: Ran Kohba (on the right) is speaking to the youth in the Odessa Then the helicopter-pilot Ron Kohba with a badge '1000 hours flight on 'Apache'' told them a story: not long ago he was ordered to destroy the car with the terrorist - the car was moving in the direction to Tel-Aviv. In the last moment before firing the missile he got the signal that a six-year old child of the "shahid" is sitting next to him, on his right. "What would you have done?" - Ran asked the students.

Students advised to "press the trigger, anyhow his son will grow a murderer", or to burst the left side of the car with a machine-gun fire. Ran calmed this youthful maximalism down: "We don't shoot at children. I was ordered to return back to the base, while our ground forces dealt with the terrorist".

After this dispute Ran Kohba stayed away from further arguments with the fervent Odessa students who "attacked" other officers. Ran was standing aside in his light military uniform and enjoying the Ukrainian landscapes. Laconic as he was, he was telling us about his civil occupation.

Ran appeared to be a professional architect, the head of the project-design bureau "Sabres" in the north of Israel. From time to time he is summoned to pilot the helicopter - for the reservists' musters for one or two days.

"We hit several buildings where terrorists sit with missiles. Then I return home at dawn after the military task. In several hours after destroying the enemies' houses I'm busy with projecting our new dwelling houses. Sometimes after such military tasks it's psychologically hard to switch. I'm negotiating with a customer, smiling at him and listening attentively, while my hands holding a pencil or a marker still remember a steering-wheel and a trigger" - Ran Kohba shares his impressions with me.

At the night of the 21st of July 2006 37 years old Ran Kohba was piloting his helicopter "Apace" to help their comrades in the battle with the "Hezbollah" militant groups near the Lebanon village Marun a-Ras. Suddenly the engine of the helicopter broke down. The machine was losing height and stroke against the second helicopter flying by its side. The second machine hardly managed to land. The Ran's helicopter crashed. Three IDF's soldiers were wounded. The major Ran Kohba died.

I'm writing these lines in between two missiles firing in Haifa. The live TV broadcast informs of the Lebanese "Katyusha" hit the building of the post office in the very center of the city. An hour before that Ran Kohba was buried in the military cemetery. That night he was flying to fulfill his military task in order to save my city of Haifa from 30 wounded civil citizens.

His surname is translated from Hebrew as the "Star". So he was a star, the best that the Holy Land gave birth to. As an architect he decorated Israel with new buildings. As a helicopter pilot he defended what he had built. Deep in his heart he understood that if he wants his compatriots to sleep peacefully in their beautiful homes he must not only project villas but also bomb and kill those who take from the Israeli citizens their right to live. Such was Ran Kohba - a talented designer and an experienced pilot, believing that we can't shoot at children of terrorists.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Thank You for Your Protection

Posted HERE at Free Republic.

By Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz.

This morning as the sun rose over Jerusalem, my wife Leah gave birth to a beautiful baby girl at the Hadassah Medical center. A few hours later I drove to the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi where my wife's parents live.

After packing several personal items that my wife will need for her hospital stay, I set out to drive back to Jerusalem. As I passed the central bus station in Kiryat Malachi, I saw an Israeli soldier waiting to get a ride. I rolled down the window and asked him where he needed to go. He said his base is near Jericho, but if I can take him to Jerusalem that would be great help.

I was in a particularly upbeat mood today--after all, we were blessed with our fourth child and third daughter--but the reality around me in the holy land is down and worrisome. Israel is being attacked by its neighbors and we are fighting a war to defend ourselves.

As fighter jets from the nearby air force base roared overhead, we cruised down the highway, and I get acquainted with Shachaf Raviv of Beer Sheva. His story gives a face to and direct association with the soldiers fighting for our land and people today.

Shachaf, 21 years old, is a medic in the IDF. He tells me that yesterday his senior officer sent him home for one night to spend with his family because today he and his unit will be leaving their base near Jericho and heading up north to the battlefield on the border of Lebanon to be part of a team of doctors and medics who will be giving critical first aid to the wounded soldiers and civilians.

His officer said he will not have any weekend breaks for a while and therefore sent him to bid farewell to his family.

Shachaf told me of the feeling in his house last night, "no one slept, they surrounded me with love and care for hours. My father immigrated to Israel from Portugal in the late sixties and fought in the Yom Kippur War and my mother came from Tunisia to the promised land around the same time. They spoke of their dreams for themselves and our future.

"I am the third of four children and currently the only son in the army. My parents named me Shachaf which means "seagull" in Hebrew but this morning when my mother said goodbye she held me for a long time and was crying, she kept calling me Rachamim--the Jewish name they gave me at my Brit ceremony, which in Hebrew means ‘mercy’ and ‘compassion.’ She cried and said ‘Rachamim today you will need G-d’s compassion and protection--We all need G-d’s rachamim.’”

As we continued to drive I encouraged Shachaf and spoke to him about the great role he has in protecting the land of Israel and the Jewish people in Israel and ultimately Jews all over the world.

At 12:00 PM I turned on the radio to the headline news. "Eight troops from Golani's 51st Battalion," the announcer said, "lost their lives on Wednesday during heavy fighting with Hezbollah terrorists in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbail. Another officer was killed in a clash at Maron a-Ras. Over twenty soldiers are wounded..."

Shachaf asked me to turn the radio off and give him spiritual inspiration instead before he heads to the front lines.

I shared with him thoughts that I heard and learned from my Rebbe and teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. During past conflicts in the Land of Israel, and during times of danger for the Jewish people, the Rebbe made practical suggestions of good deeds, mitzvot, that would elicit G-d's blessings and protection. I quoted him from the Torah that speaks of G-d protecting the land and we discussed the need for us to understand the deeper truths as to why we have our permanent homeland specifically in Israel, as promised to us in the Torah.

Shachaf was very grateful to hear how Jews and non Jews all over the world are praying for them and thinking of them every day now and wishing for their success and G-d’s protection.

When we came to Jerusalem I opened my briefcase. I had a new Mezuzuah in a plastic case and I gave it to Shachaf. I told him, “I am giving this to you for protection, but you must return it to me when you come back and I will go to Beer Sheva and put it up in your bedroom.”

Shachaf liked the idea. I said, “It says in the Torah ‘Emissaries of a good deeds are not harmed.’ You have a Mezuza--it will protect you.” Shachaf put the mezuza in his front left pocket and promised me he would leave it there until he comes back, he will also tell the story of our meeting to his fellow medic soldiers and tell them they have added protection.

I then pulled out an envelope with $500 that a member of my community gave me yesterday to give to distressed Jews in the north, and asked Shachaf to be my personal emissary to distribute these funds to wounded soldiers and civilians.

At first he refused to take it, but after we exchanged e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers he agreed and promised to report to me exactly how he gave the funds to people who really need it.

We only met an hour before, but we suddenly were deeply connected to each other. We embraced, the Mezuzah protruding from his pocket and his rifle strapped across his chest. I looked at him with tears in my eyes and said, “Rachamim, thank you for your protection”; and he looked me back in the eye while placing his hand over the mezuzah I gave him, and said “Avraham, thank you for your protection.”

I am writing this article on my laptop while sitting in the room at Hadassah Hospital while my wife rests. I look at the beautiful face of our little newborn daughter and thank G-d for His blessings and pray for His protection for my child and all the rest of His children.

As the Jewish world will pray this Shabbat for the protection of the soldiers of Israel, I will have in mind Rachamim Raviv. Please think of him and thousands of more like him who need G-d’s rachamim, mercy, and full protection.