Photo Credit: Yeshivat Hesder Yerucham
Ziv Chen, Hy”d

“They were quicker than eagles and stronger than lions to do their Creator’s will and their Rock’s desire.” – Av HaRachamim prayer



In the First Lebanon War, Shlom HaGalil, the Hesder Yeshiva in Kiryat Shemone lost six students, which, at the time, was considered to be a lot, Hy”d. However, as the months of the current war, Swords of Iron, have raged on, articles have appeared in the Israeli press, each more incredulous at the number of soldiers who have fallen from Yerucham’s Yeshivat Hesder in the Northern Negev.

Last week, the ninth soldier from The Hesder Yeshiva in Yerucham, Ziv Chen, fell in battle. The previous eight were: Ariel Eliyahu, Yinon Fleischman, Eitan Rosenzweig, Gidon Ilani, Yakir Shankolevsky, Eitan Fisch, Elisha Loewenstern, and Ephraim Jackman, Hy”d. Each of these young men was a unique individual who dedicated their lives to learning Torah and then gave them up to protect their country. Six of them were current students and three were alumni.

Yerucham was one of Israel’s first development towns in the south of Israel, in the northern Negev, 15 km from Dimona. The yeshiva was built in 1993 and founded by Rav Eliyahu Bloomenzweig. Four years ago, he left and appointed two roshei yeshiva, Rav Chaim Wolfson and Rav Uriel Eitam, in his place.

The loss of so many students has been devastating for the students and teachers.

“When there’s a war, we know there’s a risk,” says Rav Eitam, but we also know that it’s important to protect Israel. We are paying a heavy price, but on the other hand, we are building the future of Am Yisrael.”

The Rav isn’t just uttering platitudes. He too had sons in the war who, baruch Hashem, have returned safely.

Rav Wolfson doesn’t have sons in the war, but one of his daughters was doing her National Service at Kibbutz Saad in the South, and she moved with all the evacuees to a hotel at the Dead Sea until they can return home.

“HaRav Uriel coined a phrase,” says Rav Wolfson, “We are going on, with a painful heart but an uplifted head.”

“We know this is a terribly difficult time,” says Rav Wolfson, “but we believe that participating in this war is a privilege and we, the students and teachers, want to be a part of it. It’s painful. The students we lost took part in very critical battles in the war.”

There are over 300 students in the yeshiva and a kollel. There are a handful of American students as well. When I asked the roshei yeshiva if they could explain the unusually high number of fatalities the yeshiva has suffered in this war, Rav Wolfson said, “In the 30 years of wars since the yeshiva was founded, baruch Hashem, we didn’t have one casualty, not one, not in the Second Lebanon War, not in any of the operations – Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense, Protective Edge, Guardian of the Walls. Then, we didn’t ask why we were spared. We’re not going to ask why now.”

At the funeral of Ziv Chen, one of the students, an officer who had been in the war since October 7 and had only just been released home, went to speak to Rav Eitam, who asked him when he would be returning to the yeshiva. The student answered, “I want to reenlist.”

Rav Wolfson said, “If they had come to us on Simchat Torah with the offer that our students wouldn’t have to fight, that we would be absolved of serving in this war, we wouldn’t have taken them up on it. We all feel, deep in our hearts, that we are part of Am Yisrael, and we have a commitment to serve.

“May the Sovereign G-d wipe the tears off of all faces.” (Yeshayahu 25:8)

And may every soldier come home safely to peace.


Previous articleIn Wake of Hamas Atrocities Against Israeli Women, UN Insists Israel Violates Arab Women
Next articleTetzave: The Purpose Of The Kohanim
Rosally Saltsman's new book "100 Life Lessons I've Learned So You Don't Have To" is available for purchase in both hard cover and digital formats. Please contact Rosally at [email protected] to order a copy. You're sure to enjoy this humorous, insightful, poignant and instructional book.