FRIENDS OF IDF
This Mother Knew What
Knock On Her Door
ADIO talk show host and Fox News
contributor Monica Crowley exhorted us to put away all
cellphones and other recording and photographic devices. We
braced with anticipation for a rare glimpse of Israelís covert
monitoring of terrorist activity.
Israelís two intelligence
services, Mossad (external) and Shin Bet (internal), are
universally known and respected. Whatís little known is the
third component of the Israeli intelligence community, known as
Aman (Directorate of Military Intelligence).
As emcee of the Friends
of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) national dinner in March at
the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, Crowley gave us an insight how
Israel tracks terrorists. She interviewed Maj. Gen. Aviv
Kochavi, director of Aman, who spoke by satellite from
his clandestine base in Jerusalem.
Kochavi said Aman is
Israelís biggest intelligence agency that for two years has been
focusing on tactical and operational intelligence.
"How does tactical
intelligence work?" Crowley asked.
Kochavi said. "But I will explain this if you will explain what
sequester is." That jocular response got a rise from the 1400
guests in the Waldorf ballroom.
Behind Kochavi was a
roomful of soldiers busy at computers, their backs to the
camera. "Our 30 analysts," he said, "collect each piece of
information so we will be able to act against Hamas, the biggest
terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip."
Flanking Kochavi were two
of his colleagues: the male head of the Palestinian
communications analyst department, and a female Arabic
The Arabic specialist
said her team listens to conversations in Gaza. They pick up on
plans to set off rockets even though the conversations are
replete with code words which are easily interpreted by her
"We listen to
conversations that give a sense of what theyíre up to," she
said. "Itís not about what they are saying but how they are
saying it. If they sound nervous, we pay attention. We develop a
sixth sense to understand what they are saying."
Kochavi said that as a
result of such intelligence Israel was able to launch drones
that destroyed more than a thousand rocket sites in Gaza.
Dinner chairman Arthur
Stark introduced Nelly Barak, a native of Austria who
made aliyah in 1956. She raised two sons and a daughter, and
worked in Arad with immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Her
youngest son, Hanan, enlisted in 2003, following his
older brother and sister who had served in the armored corps.
During Hananís officer
training, his father Dudi went for several surgeries.
Because of that Hanan found it hard to focus. "He knew he had
done well enough to finish but not well enough to be a tank
commander on the front lines," his mother said.
With only two weeks left
of his four-month course, Hanan requested to be allowed to drop
out and take the course again later. "Why did you leave when no
one asked you to?" his mother asked.
"As an officer," he told
her, "I am responsible for the lives of my soldiers. I donít
want to take on that responsibility until I am ready and can
give it my full and complete attention. Our soldiers deserve no
A few months later his
father was released from the hospital and Hanan went back and
took the demanding course all over again from the beginning. At
the end he took command of a tank unit in the 71st
Battalion of the 188th Brigade. "He was so happy and
we were so proud," his mother said.
On Sunday morning, June
25, 2006, there was a knock on the door. "Itís open!" Nelly
shouted. No one came in. She got up and opened the door. There
stood three IDF soldiers. Nelly felt faint.
"Itís enough just to see
them in your doorway. They donít even have to say a word."
"NO!" she yelled. "Youíre
making a mistake. You have the wrong address!" And she slammed
She was thinking, "If I
close the door they will just go away and it will be all right."
She realized how irrational that sounded and let them in to do
their painful duty.
Earlier that morning,
when her son was stationed near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, three
groups of terrorists crawled out from a tunnel under the Gaza
fence. They saw a tank and attacked with rocket-propelled
grenades. The tank went up in flames. Hanan and the three men
under his command were forced to evacuate. Hanan and Pavel
Slutzker were gunned down and killed. Roi Amitai
was wounded. The fourth, Gilad Shalit, was dragged back
into Gaza by the terrorists.
Nelly realized how
beloved her son was when numerous people came to her
houseófriends, soldiers, the chief of staff, the president,
"people we never dreamt of meeting." They all said the same
thing: your son touched our lives, he went the extra step, he
cared about us, he made a difference.
Wiping away the tears on
her cheeks Nelly continued, "No, there will never be another
Hanan Barak. But there are many who are just like him. Look at
all the soldiers in this ballroom, ordinary kids, just like my
Hanan, and what they do is truly amazing. Thanks to them we are
privileged to have a nation to call our own. And because of
that, you and I and Jews around the world can feel proud and
At the dinner a wounded
warrior, Capt. Ziv Shilon, stood with Lt. Gen. Gabi
Ashkenazi, former IDF chief of general staff, as
photographers snapped away. Zivís sister, Hilla, told me
how he lost his two hands.
As a member of the Givati
Brigade, Ziv, 25, led a group of soldiers in October to clear
the Gaza border near Kibbutz Kissufim. As he reached to open the
border gate, a hidden bomb exploded. Both of his arms were torn.
This evening, four months
and ten operations in his right hand later, Ziv entered the
ballroom to the cheers of a thousand people who sprang from
their seats to salute a hero.
Among those applauding
were Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak Gershon, FIDF national
director and CEO; Benny Shabtai, dinner chairman
emeritus; Israeli Ambassador to UN Ron Prosor; New York
Yankees president Randy Levine; Presidents Conference
executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein;
Robert Benrimon, a paratrooper in the 1973 Yom Kippur War;
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a principal at Bernstein Global
Wealth Management; fashion designer Elie Tahari; and the
noted criminal defense attorney Ben Brafman.
The dinner raised $27
million for FIDF which, since 1981, has been supporting
educational and recreational facilities for soldiers and their
families. Among the heavy hitters was Marc Belzberg who
announced, "I am donating one million dollars and my first-born
son to the IDF in August."