Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Rabbi Yitzchok Fanger is one of my favorite speakers. He always has important messages, and he delivers them with comic relief. He served in the IDF and eventually became a ba’al teshuva. He is involved in so many endeavors; one of the main ones is kiruv rechokim.

Many frum people come to hear him because of his down-to-earth approach, his messages, and his amusing remarks and theatrics. But sometimes he limits his audience to only non-religious Jews. At one such evening, he finished his shiur and asked the audience if anyone has a question. One man raised his hand and said that he has something important to tell the audience.


Rabbi Fanger wasn’t sure what to do. In the past, if someone had something to say, he would run it past Rabbi Fanger first, for Rabbi Fanger determine if it was worthy and kosher to say to an audience. Rabbi Fanger was in a quandary, but in the end he acquiesced to the request of this man.

*Eli stood up from his chair and made his way to the podium on the stage. Rabbi Fanger prayed that it would be OK. Eli began, “Many journalists wanted to interview me about the story I am about to tell you, but I refused all interviews. I felt that I didn’t want to hurt or sadden others whose story didn’t turn out like mine.”

He began his story. “On Saturday, October 7, my wife and I awoke to the news that missiles were being fired at communities in southern Israel. Our son *Barak was down south with a friend. I called Barak on my cell phone, but he didn’t answer. I then called his good friend, *Shai. Each second was like an eternity. Shai answered and I asked him how he was. He said fine. I then asked how my son Barak is and Shai answered that he is fine. I asked to speak to Barak.

Barak got on the phone and told me that they are okay. Now, Barak is the type of guy who never asks for anything and does not agree to receive help. Still, I asked him if he wanted us to come to pick him up from where they currently are. Barak said, “Yes, I do.” He sent me his location in Kibbutz Nir Am.

“We left Petach Tikva with my wife doing the driving and me watching Waze to make sure that we were going the correct way. My wife drove 180 kilometers an hour (approximately 112 miles an hour).” When we finally reached Kibbutz Nir Am, the gate was closed, and no one was at the entrance. We broke through the gate and started driving the way that Waze instructed. We drove on some dirt roads, when suddenly, in front of us we saw fifteen Arabs with a strips of cloth around their heads and they were holding various weapons. There was not enough room for my wife to turn the car around. I am not a religious person, but I prayed to G-d at that moment. I thought that was the end of my wife and myself.

“Somehow she managed to drive to the right of the terrorists, and she sped off and passed cowsheds and agricultural fields. I couldn’t understand where Waze was taking us. Finally we got to an area of trees, and we found Barak, Shai and five other people who were hiding. They all piled into our car. Now there was the question of how we would get out of the kibbutz without being killed by the Arab terrorists. I didn’t see any other way out other than the way we had entered.

“We were so worried about those terrorists, but when we returned to the place that we had seen them, no one was in sight. That was miracle number one.

“Before the exit to the kibbutz, we saw an Israeli soldier who hailed us down. He said that his car had broken down and that he needed to get to the Gaza border. I said that we were heading to Petach Tikva and that perhaps he should come with us, but he said that it was vital for him to go further south. He squished into the car.

“We exited the kibbutz and drove for a while. We got to an intersection. The sign read ‘Tel-Aviv’ to the left, and ’Gaza border’ to the right. I told the soldier that I was making a left. I couldn’t imagine that a bus or anyone else would be coming by to pick up the chayal.

“He asked me, ‘Can I ask you a favor and take me to the border? I must get further south to join my army unit.’

“I calculated his request in my mind. I agreed to go out of our way to take him closer to the border. We turned right. We drove and drove and finally reached a military barricade. The soldiers wouldn’t let us travel any further south, so we let the soldier in our car out.

“One of the soldiers at the barricade asked us where we were going. I said that we were returning to Petach Tikva. The soldier answered, ‘Don’t you know that there are terrorists all around that road? You can’t go that way!’ He proceeded to instruct us how to go through fields instead of using the roads. Miracle number two!

“We made it back to Petach Tikva physically unscathed.”

Rabbi Fanger then described how Eli then shouted “HaShem Melech, HaShem Malach, HaShem Yimloch L’Olam V’Ed.” The crowd screamed the words after him. Eli then repeated the words again and again with the crowd screaming the words after him.

This war against Hamas has made for a spiritual revival among many Jews. Who knows how far Eli will go in his spiritual life.

*All names have been changed.


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Adina Hershberg is a freelance writer who has been living in Israel since 1981.