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Winnipegger Zev Faintuch talks about his experiences as a “lone soldier” in the IDF

The IDF (Israel Defense Force) is the first and last line of defense for the people of Israel. As Zev Faintuch noted, quoting a Holocaust survivor, “without a strong army, there would be no Israel”.

But it is not only Israelis (Jewish, Christian, Bedouin and Druze) who stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of the Jewish state. A goodly number of Jewish youth – including several from within our own Jewish community – have also gone to Israel to enlist in the IDF and help protect the people of Israel.
Those foreign volunteers are referred to as “lone soldiers” – one of whom was Winnipegger Zev Faintuch. On Monday, June 5, Faintuch spoke to  an audience of about 50 crammed into a room at Temple Shalom about his experiences as a member of the IDF. The program was under the aegis of Winnipeg Friends of Israel.
Being a “lone soldier” doesn’t actually mean that you are alone or lonely, Faintuch explained. It means that you do not have family in Israel. Generally, he noted, “lone soldiers” are matched with adoptive families to help them feel more connected.
“It is nice to have someone you can talk to when you are on leave who understands what you have been through and a place to go where you can feel at home,” he said.
Faintuch served in the IDF for 18 months in 2011-2012. He was a member of Nahal brigade serving in an infantry battalion. Throughout that time, he was stationed in southern Israel near Sderot, which is just across the border from Hamas-ruled Gaza. Fortunately, it was a quiet time. There was little or no hostile activity during that period.
The first question that Faintuch was asked by his fellow soldiers was:  What motivated an overachieving nice Jewish boy who has trouble screwing in a light bulb (all in his own words) to enlist in the IDF. As he explained, he had been a Zionist from a young age. As a Gray Academy student, he was imbued with the Zionist ideal and love for Israel. He participated in the March of the Living (which takes high school students first to the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland, then to Israel) and the Gray Academy’s P2G program (which involves exchange programs between Gray Academy students and teachers and their counterparts of Danciger Regional High school in Kiryat Shemona in northern Israel).
In addition, his mother, Shelley Faintuch, is a leader in Israel-related programs and activities in our community.
The moment that clinched his decision to join the IDF, he said, came on the second last evening of his Grade 12 trip to Israel. (Every year, the Gray Academy of Jewish Education arranges a trip to Israel for its graduating class at the end of the term.)
“When we were discussing our experience in Israel, one of my friends commented that he hoped his children would get to see Israel,” Faintuch recalled. “I took that to mean that Israel’s existence was in question.”
Other factors also played a role in Faintuch’s decision. He cited personal development and the opportunity to learn another language. “I had studied Hebrew, but wasn’t fluent,” he said.
There was also a Holocaust component. His great- grandparents had perished in the Holocaust and a great-uncle in Winnipeg is a survivor.
Faintuch went through the IDF’s rigorous training program, culminating in an all-night, 60 km hike in the desert with full backpack and running the last two kilometres carrying a stretcher
“I pushed myself further than I thought I was capable of,” he said.
His principal duties in the army were manning a heavy machine gun and operating a remote control overhead weapons system. “I sat in a vehicle – with a 50-calibre machine gun on the top – and operated a joystick connected to a camera,” he said. “I was supposed to surveil the surrounding area and provide cover for my other team members should we find ourselves in a combat situation.”
He also recalled how on Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of each month), a temporary shelter would be set up and a Torah would be brought out for morning prayers. “It was surreal and incredible,” he said.
“Would I do it (volunteer to serve in the IDF)?” he asked out loud. “Yes. It was an incredible experience. But if I could do it again, I would try to make officer. I wasn’t confident enough in my Hebrew.”
Faintuch was asked if he thought that he had made a difference to the defense of Israel. He responded negatively. “It doesn’t really make sense for the IDF to take on foreigners,” he noted. “We have to be paid more and require more resources. The positive answer though is that Israelis appreciate that some of us in the Diaspora have their backs. They don’t feel so alone when we stand shoulder to shoulder with them.”
He reported that 20% of the soldiers in his company were lone soldiers and 25% of his platoon were English-speakers.
In response to a question about the IDF’s code of ethics, he reported that it is among the strictest in the world. “Under the rules of engagement, we are only allowed to fire our weapons if we are in immediate physical danger,” he said.
Since his return, he has completed his BA in Global Studies and MA (at the University of Western Ontario) in Global Risk. “There are a large number of both Jewish and Muslim students at UWO,” he commented. “One of my best friends there was a Palestinian. We don’t talk politics.”

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Hamas murdered their friend. Now, they help Israeli soldiers to keep his memory alive

David Newman (right): David died helping to save the lives of others who were at the music festival on October 7 when Hamas massacred hundreds of attendees

By VIRGINIA ALLEN (The Daily Signal) David Newman sent a text to a friend the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7. Something terrible had happened. Word quickly spread among Newman’s group of friends, who had known each other since high school.
Newman, 25, had traveled the night before to the music festival in southern Israel, close to the border with the Gaza Strip. It was supposed to be a fun weekend with his girlfriend “celebrating life,” something Newman, who served with the Israel Defense Forces, was good at and loved to do, friend Gidon Hazony recalls.
When Hazony learned that Newman, his longtime friend, was in danger, he and another friend decided they were “going to go down and try and save him.” Trained as a medic and armed with a handgun and bulletproof vest, Hazony started driving south from Jerusalem.
Hazony and his friend ended up joining with other medical personnel and “treated probably around 50 soldiers and civilians in total that day,” Hazony recalls, but they kept trying to make it south to rescue Newman.

But the two “never made it down to the party, and that’s probably for the best,” Hazony says, “because that area was completely taken over by terrorists. And if we had gone down there, I think we would’ve been killed.”
Hazony later learned that Hamas terrorists had murdered Newman on Oct. 7, but not before Newman had saved nearly 300 lives, including the life of his girlfriend.
When the terrorists began their attack on the music festival, many attendees began running to their cars. But Newman and his girlfriend encountered a police officer who warned them to run the opposite direction because the terrorists were near the vehicles, says David Gani, another friend of Newman’s.
Newman “ran in the opposite direction with his girlfriend and whoever else he could kind of corral with him,” Gani explains during an interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
“They saw two industrial garbage cans, big containers, and so David told everyone, ‘Hide, hide in those containers,’” Gani says. “And so what he did over the course of the next few hours is, he would take people and … he was this big guy, and he would just chuck them in that container. And then he would go in, wait, wait till the coast is clear, and then he’d go back out, find more people, put them in there.”
Newman’s actions that day, and the atrocities Hazony and so many others in Israel witnessed Oct. 7, led Hazony, Gani, and several friends to quit their jobs and set up a nonprofit called Soldiers Save Lives. The organization is working to collect tactical and humanitarian aid for the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.
According to the group’s website, Soldiers Save Lives has supplied over 20 IDF units and civilian response teams “with protective and self-defense gear.”
Gani, board chairman, chief financial officer, and chief technology officer of Soldiers Save Lives, and Hazony, president of the organization, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to raise support and awareness for their mission to provide IDF troops with needed supplies.
If you would like to find out more about Soldiers Save Lives or donate to them, go to
Reprinted with permission.

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Our New Jewish Reality

Indigo bookstore in Toronto defaced

By HENRY SREBRNIK Since Oct. 7, we Jews have been witnessing an ongoing political and psychological pogrom. True, there have been no deaths (so far), but we’ve seen the very real threat of mobs advocating violence and extensive property damage of Jewish-owned businesses, and all this with little forceful reaction from the authorities.
The very day after the carnage, Canadians awoke to the news that the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust had inspired sustained celebrations in its major cities. And they have continued ever since. I’d go so far as to say the Trudeau government has, objectively, been more interested in preventing harm to Gazans than caring about the atrocities against Israelis and their state.
For diaspora Jews, the attacks of Oct. 7 were not distant overseas events and in this country since then they have inspired anti-Semitism, pure and simple, which any Jew can recognize. Even though it happened in Israel, it brought back the centuries-old memories of defenseless Jews being slaughtered in a vicious pogrom by wild anti-Semites.
I think this has shocked, deeply, most Jews, even those completely “secular” and not all that interested in Judaism, Israel or “Zionism.” Jewish parents, especially, now fear for their children in schools and universities. The statements universities are making to Jewish students across the country could not be clearer: We will not protect you, they all but scream. You’re on your own.
But all this has happened before, as we know from Jewish history. Long before Alfred Dreyfus and Theodor Herzl, the 1881 pogroms in tsarist Russia led to an awakening of proto-Zionist activity there, with an emphasis on the land of Israel. There were soon new Jewish settlements in Palestine.
The average Jew in Canada now knows that his or her friend at a university, his co-worker in an office, and the people he or she socializes with, may in fact approve, or at least not disapprove, of what happened that day in Israel. Acquaintances or even close friends may care far more about Israel killing Palestinians in Gaza. Such people may even believe what we may call “Hamas pogrom denial,” already being spread. Many people have now gone so far in accepting the demonization of Israel and Jews that they see no penalty attached to public expressions of Jew-hatred. Indeed, many academics scream their hatred of Israel and Jews as loud as possible.
One example: On Nov. 10, Toronto officers responded to a call at an Indigo bookstore located in the downtown. It had been defaced with red paint splashed on its windows and the sidewalk, and posters plastered to its windows.
The eleven suspects later arrested claimed that Indigo founder Heather Reisman (who is Jewish) was “funding genocide” because of her financial support of the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides scholarships to foreign nationals who study in Israel after serving in the Israeli armed forces. By this logic, then, most Jewish properties and organizations could be targeted, since the vast majority of Jews are solidly on Israel’s side.
Were these vandals right-wing thugs or people recently arrived from the Middle East? No, those charged were mostly white middle-class professionals. Among them are figures from academia, the legal community, and the public education sector. Four are academics connected to York University (one of them a former chair of the Sociology Department) and a fifth at the University of Toronto; two are elementary school teachers; another a paralegal at a law firm.
Were their students and colleagues dismayed by this behaviour? On the contrary. Some faculty members, staff and students at the university staged a rally in their support. These revelations have triggered discussions about the role and responsibilities of educators, given their influential positions in society.
You’ve heard the term “quiet quitting.” I think many Jews will withdraw from various clubs and organizations and we will begin to see, in a sense like in the 1930s, a reversal of assimilation, at least in the social sphere. (Of course none of this applies to Orthodox Jews, who already live this way.)
Women in various feminist organizations may form their own groups or join already existing Jewish women’s groups. There may be an increase in attendance in K-12 Jewish schools. In universities, “progressive” Jewish students will have to opt out of organizations whose members, including people they considered friends, have been marching to the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and similar eliminationist rhetoric, while waving Palestinian flags.
This will mostly affect Jews on the left, who may be supporters of organizations which have become carriers of anti-Semitism, though ostensibly dealing with “human rights,” “social justice,” and even “climate change.”
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took part in a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Oct. 22 in which she chanted “crush Zionism” along with hundreds of other anti-Israel protesters. Israel is now unthinkingly condemned as a genocidal apartheid settler-colonialist state, indeed, the single most malevolent country in the world and the root of all evil.
New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens expressed it well in his Nov. 7 article. “Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying.”
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.

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Former Winnipegger Vivian Silver, at first thought to have been taken hostage, has now been confirmed dead

Jewish Post & News file photo

Former Winnipegger and well-known Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver has now been confirmed as having been killed during the massacre of Israelis and foreign nationals perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Vivian, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri was originally thought to be among the more than 1200 individuals who were taken hostage by Hamas.

To read the full story on the CBC website, go to

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