In the letter below, First Lieutenant Erin Bronstein shares what it’s like to have someone she loves sent off to the front lines in Gaza. Please read, share this letter throughout your social media platforms and continue to pray for Israel!
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My name is Erin Bronstein, and I am a Deputy Company Commander of cadets in the C4I Corps, currently at the rank of First Lieutenant. My boyfriend, Liad, is also a First Lieutenant. He’s a platoon commander in “Givati” – a combat infantry unit that mainly fights in Gaza.
There is a theory that everyone in the world is separated by only six degrees of separation. That approximately 7,248,126,605 people know each other through five other acquaintances at most, over a 6,371 km radius of the world. Here in Israel, this New Jersey sized, 20,770 km² spec on the globe, with a population of a little over six million Jews, I would say we have a two or three degree separation from each other at most. Here I am in the middle of a war, hearing names of fallen soldiers – more and more each day – only to look them up on Facebook and see that I have mutual friends with all of them.
Two degrees of separation. Two degrees separating me from a boy my age – a child, a broken family, an unlived life, untold story – who just two days ago posted a status update and a picture from his routine life. He’s dead now. Gone. I find out that he used to date my friend, went to school with a fellow soldier of mine. Two of the boys who were recently killed were on my best friend’s water polo team for many years. Even the 45 year-old reservist who was killed on the border had a son who studies at school with a family friend. All of this on top of recent news broadcasts, spelling out the deaths of an additional thirteen soldiers. What is this world that we live in, how is this possible?
When I think of war, I picture mothers and fathers listening closely to a big old radio in their living room. I think about Memorial Day while remembering the essays and book reports I had to write in school. I imagine worn out army gear, helmets, guns and artillery; countless people wounded, killed and kidnapped, but I’ve never imagined myself. I’ve never imagined that I’d be sitting with my girlfriends glued to the news, comforting each other and trying to wipe each other’s tears between sobs from the thought that our boyfriends are going in – are going to fight side by side in this terrible battle.
While other girls wait for a text or message stating that a certain boy is interested, that they share a connection, I am waiting, hoping, that my boyfriend is connected to this life – alive and safe, for now. When I haven’t heard from him in days, I am devastated at the thought that the unspeakable might have happened.
My friends are out there – fighting and dying for their country. This is real. Despite reports that this will all be over soon, how can I find hope when I am constantly reminded of the ever increasing number of wounded and dead soldiers? How can I see an end? I pray the rumors of death I hear are false and those of a cease fire are true, but the uncertainty and frailty of the situation is unbearable.
With all the loss, I am always thinking about you. Liad, my boyfriend, you’ve always been in my heart, even before I realized what an amazing thing we had. Never have I met anyone who has been so open with his emotions, so generous with his affections, so giving, accepting, and wonderful to me. I wish we could have spent more time together before you left, before I had to start worrying about you every day. They say distance makes the heart grow stronger, but all I know is that I have never missed you as much as I do now.
My heart cringed when you called to tell me that this would be the last time we could talk for now, that we will have to be patient for a while. My heart racing, I told you “I love you” for the first time. I wanted to say it in person, but those three words, those words that confirm I am invested, completely yours, vulnerable to be hurt by you, couldn’t wait to be said, given the circumstances. But I meant it with all my heart, and now I know that you love me too. And as I tried to keep you on the phone just a couple seconds longer, to hear your voice for one more moment, I prayed that the first time I finally said those three words wouldn’t be the last.
How can anyone go about their life as if nothing is happening? Missiles are being fired at homes, children are cowering in bomb shelters, people are dying, teenagers are leaving to protect their home, family, and country while their loved ones sit in utter horror and suspense, praying not to get that fateful knock on the door, telling them the unthinkable has happened. We are in a battle. Every mother, sister, friend, cousin, and loved one is in it too, drawn together over loss and suffering.
And there is so much hate. So much hate between the Jews and Palestinians, so much hate between left and right. So much misleading information, biased news stations, radical activists, and blinded people who make this battle so much worse than it already is. Even though I’m resentful towards Hamas, my heart aches for the civilians in Gaza. Aches for the people whose only sin was to be born in a country run by terrorists, who grew up the only way they knew how – hating Israelis. People too scared, proud or naive to evacuate when they had the chance, to stop supporting and complying with the people who are ruining their lives.
On both sides there is devastation, loss and agony. And I ask myself, when will it end? At what cost have we embarked on this quest for peace, and for what amount of time will it last? Is the blowing up of a tunnel equivalent to the life of a soldier who died trying to save us from it? What about 35 tunnels?
Liad, I miss you and I think about you every day, all day. I know how much you wanted to go in, to fight for peace alongside your friends. I pray that you will come home safe in one full and healthy piece. I hope you will bring all the soldiers fighting beside you home safely too – not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. I hope you don’t have to see or experience things that will damage your gentle soul. I am waiting for you my love. I am waiting to hold you in my arms, stroke your hair, look you in your sweet eyes and tell you just how much you mean to me. I am Jewish, I am a proud IDF First Lieutenant, a worrying girlfriend, an Israeli citizen – and we are at war.