This is the twelfth in a series of stories told by former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reserve duty soldier-students about their time in service and life in Israel, brought to you by StandWithUs and Jspace. Alon is one of 14 speakers traveling around the United States as part of StandWithUs’ 7th “Israeli Soldiers Tour,” putting a human face to the IDF uniform. Last names are withheld for security purposes. These stories have never been told before. For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/israelisoldierstour/

Alon, 27 years young was born in Haifa and admits to being the “problematic middle child.” Alon means an Oak tree and he jokes that “for some reason all names in Israel are either natural or biblical…not really sure why to be honest.” But, he does know his ancestry, that he is a grandchild to all four grandparents who are Holocaust survivors. They fled different countries: Holland, Romania, Poland and Lithuania. Many of their relatives perished, along with millions of others.

Alon’s father’s company relocated the family to Johannesburg, South Africa to implement new agricultural technology. He was witness to Mandela’s returned to power. At age 7, the family moved to Mexico City. Alon joined sports teams, was president of the student council and volunteered in Habitat for Humanity and helped build houses in remote villages around Mexico City.

He still continues as chairman of the Student Union, but now at the International School of IDC Herzliya where he studies business. Alon works for an Israeli technology start-up which sends him to South America to generate business.

The world traveler speaks five languages: Hebrew, English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

During most of the 1990’s, Israel was suffering the “Intifada”; a violent uprising of Palestinian terror and suicide bombings throughout Israel. Alon was in another country and had to try and contact his relatives in Israel and “hear” about it and peruse the weekly newspaper his parents ordered from Israel for news.

At age 18, Alon decided to return his country, Israel.

Have you experienced any particularly tense moments in the IDF?

After 3 years in the Artillery Corps, I was deployed in a small military post called Zaura, 2 km south of the border with Lebanon. Syria and Lebanon are considered threats, containing numerous terror organizations whose mere purpose is the elimination of the state of Israel. This is Hezbollah and ISIS territory.

It was a hot day, August 3rd to be exact; I will never forget this date. It was @11am when we suddenly received an alarm in the Battery Command Post. “Patish Cham” (Hot Hammer) repeated over and over. This means there was a shooting nearby and we had to respond immediately. The shooting was 5 miles away very near to Qiryat Shmona along the border with Lebanon.

I saw the coordinates on the map and immediately checked that I was firing in an area with no civilians. My first priority was to allow the friendly vehicles to escape and for the wounded to be treated, so we fired smoke shells to cover the line of sight of the snipers. I remember each of these shells, every 30 seconds on the clock, and just praying that we have no casualties. On the other end of the transmission is the Forward Observer Lt. Eitan, who is instructing us to keep firing while the paramedic was taking care of the wounded commander.

Following the smoke shells, we fired 4 High Explosive shells after confirming and identifying Hezbollah terrorists. In a matter of minutes, the event was over… Lt. Colonel Dov Beri Harari was killed…shot by a Hezbollah sniper in the head. This man was a reservist, meaning he’s not in active duty and he comes to serve when he is called. Dov was a father to 5 girls, a husband, a brother, a son and a corporate manager in a very well known Israeli company. In just 5 minutes, this man lost his life, and 8 kilometers away, my whole unit was stunned.

Anything can happen in this region. We face terror and it can come from anywhere. I know a life was lost, and it is tragic, but I also know the way my soldiers acted and performed in these 7 minutes, saved the lives of many others.

What moment of your service had the greatest impact on you?

I attended the funeral of Lt. Colonel Dov Beri Harari (RIP). Seeing his family tore my heart to pieces and just made me realize how important it is to have someone keeping us safe. This was one of the most impacting moments of my military career and it took me a while to understand this. Being 21 years old seems so long ago, but moments like this shaped me into the person I am today. In the bottom of my heart, I wish to never have to encounter another event like this one…but in this land of uncertainty, I can only hope.

What do you want people to know about serving in the IDF?

It is crucial that people understand that the IDF uses completely different tactics than its enemies. The IDF has a moral code and is run by a chain of values emphasizing minimizing potential harm to the uninvolved civilians and the defense of the state of Israel.

Through my training and experience, I received a very clear vision of all the restrictions we have as an Artillery unit deployed in the field. I memorized the map like the back of my hand, and knew all the points I could never target, knew exactly where civilians were living their day to day lives and knew that every decision I make, any shell I ever have to fire, could have extreme consequences.

How does it feel to represent Israel in this way?

The IDF is part of the fabric of Israeli society, and it was extremely important for me to share my story. I don’t want someone to misrepresent me and what I stand for. I left everything I know to share my truth. I am a student, just like you. My name is Alon and I went on this tour to defend my existence as an Israeli….and especially to the anti-Israel students who protested, refused to dialogue and walked out of our presentation at the University of New Mexico.

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Erica Terry is Managing Editor at Jspace News. She has reported on domestic and international news, Israeli politics, features and more for Jewish publications in New York, Miami and London.
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