It’s a lot harder to be the parent of a soldier fighting in wartime than it is to be a soldier fighting in wartime, according to Zur Goldblum.
He should know. The Israeli-born owner of Squirrel Hill-based Pomegranate Catering served in the Israel Defense Forces during the 1982 Lebanon War. His son Alon is now serving as a lone soldier in the Givati Reconnaissance Battalion, on the same team as Lt. Hadar Goldin, the soldier who was kidnapped and murdered in a Gaza tunnel on Aug. 1 during Operation Protective Edge.
Goldblum had not seen Alon since December, he said, when he got a telephone call in mid-August from one of the soldiers on Alon’s team.
“He said, ‘We want to bring you over for a surprise lunch next week,’” Goldblum recalled. “Two hours later, I got a call from Ofer Raviv, the P.R. manager of Bank Macantile in Israel, and he said he needed the spelling of my name and my birthdate for the ticket. I thought he was kidding me.”
A day and a half later, Goldblum was on an El Al fight, headed to Israel.
The Givati Reconnaissance Battalion had a “very tough time in Gaza,” Goldblum said, noting that the direct commander of Alon’s unit was killed, as well as two other soldiers, including Goldin.
Alon is one of only two lone soldiers in his 23-soldier unit, according to Goldblum.
“When they finally got out of Gaza, the first thing everyone did was go home to family,” he said, a luxury that the lone soldiers don’t have.
So, one of the other soldiers in the unit made it his mission to bring family to his lone soldier comrades.
Through a series of connections, he was able to organize an effort between Bank Mercantile, El Al, the Jewish Agency for Israel and Nefesh B’Nefesh to bring over Goldblum, as well as the father of the other lone soldier, who is from New York. Goldblum’s wife, Jackie, a teacher at Community Day School, was also offered a ticket to Israel, but she happened to be there already, taking a course at Yad Vashem.
A lunch had been organized at a restaurant in Holon — a city on the coast south of Tel Aviv — by the Givati battalion officer who had run into the tunnel trying to rescue Goldin. All the soldiers in the unit, as well as their parents, were invited.
Alon had no idea that his own parents would be there as well, Goldblum said.
Goldblum was so overcome with emotion that he could not even speak when he was reunited at the restaurant with his son.
“It was just very exciting,” he said.
The lunch was on a Tuesday. On Wednesday, Alon got called back to fight.
It was a quick visit, but so meaningful for the Goldblums.
“For once, I got to do what every Israeli father does,” Goldblum said. “I drove my child to the army.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.