Heroes of Israel Enjoying NYC

Photos by Bentzi Sasson

Photos by Bentzi Sasson

Video by Moishy Lew

At a time when the United States is still reeling from the Boston terror attack, this past Shabbat one thousand Jews gathered to show support and admiration for ten severely wounded Israeli soldiers and victims of terror.

The soldiers were brought to New York for an all-expenses-paid trip where they experienced ten days of fun, pleasure and inspiration. The trip was arranged by Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side, directed by Rabbi Uriel and Shevy Vigler, in cooperation with the Chabad Terror Victims Program of Israel, directed by Rabbis Menachem Kutner and Yossi Swerdlov.

Friday night, 500 community members attended a magnificently catered Shabbat meal, and heard the soldiers’ heart-wrenching yet miraculous and inspiring stories.

Andre Peck, one of the soldiers, shared his story. Andre was one of the border guards who rushed to the scene of the December 2001 bus attack en route from Bnei Brak to Emmanuel. Palestinian terrorists had planted roadside bombs, and as the unarmored bus drove past two massive explosions caused major damage to the vehicle. The bus continued to drive several hundred meters until it broke down. Immediately the terrorists approached the bus, throwing live grenades and shooting firearms into the crowd of passengers trying to flee.

Andre raced to the scene and began to fire at the terrorists. Despite taking a bullet himself, he continued to pursue the enemy and killed four terrorists. Ten civilians were killed in the attack, and dozens were wounded. Andre was hit in the spine five times and paralyzed from the waist down. He received the highest medal of honor from the IDF.

When Andre finished his account, everyone joined in a spirited dance while singing “Am Yisrael Chai,” and “Moshiach, Moshiach, Moshiach.”

The packed Shabbat morning service was led by Cantor Ari Kleinand the Neshama Acapella Group. Many of the soldiers were given an aliyah, and spontaneous hakafot broke out after each one. 

The group went on Friday to the Ohel where they were able to pour out their heart and daven for a speedy recovery. On Sunday they all got a motorcycle with a rider and went on a tour in the Bear mountain area.

Even though the soldiers were treated to 10 days of fun they all agreed that the love and support they have received from the people of the Chabad Israel Center community is the most incredible part of their trip, and a vital component to their rehabilitation.