On the fourth day of Operation Pillar of Defense, two brothers from the Nahal Brigade were preparing for war. On the same day, their older sister Eva was preparing for her wedding. Read the inspiring story of a family in Israel.
Last November, the mood in Israel was heavy with fear and suspense. It was the first time since the Gulf War, in 1991, that sirens rang out in Tel Aviv to warn of impending rocket fire. The bomb shelters were being filled again, and for several days, the city was struck with fear.
As the news reported increasing rocket fire, Israel prepared for the possibility of a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of IDF (Zahal) reservists were called up to their bases, and families across the country worried that their loved ones would be forced to enter Gaza.
By the fourth day of the operation, Sergeant Eli Zrihen and Captain Emmanuel Zrihen – two brothers from the Nahal Brigade – were preparing for war. On the same day, their older sister Eva Zrihen was preparing to get married in Tel Aviv. The entire family felt a mixture of joy and disappointment – realizing that the two brothers would not be able attend their own sister’s wedding.
Eli and Emmanuel were upholding their duty to protect the people of Israel, but they wanted desperately to be with their family at their sister’s wedding ceremony. “It’s difficult to concentrate on the mission when there are other things going on in your head,” Emanuel recalled. “It’s like being in two places at once.” That very morning, they sent Eva a message saying they were waiting for the orders to enter Gaza, that they were thinking of the family, and that they wanted to hear only about the “tears of joy” that would be at the wedding.
Meanwhile, members of the Zrihen family were making their way to the wedding hall. As the radio announced more falling rockets, sirens began to sound all around them. Moments later, the base’s commander came to Eli with an important message. To Eli’s surprise, he was told that he wouldn’t be entering Gaza, and that he was free to leave the base to join family’s celebration. “You have 15 minutes to find your brother,” the commander said. “Take the keys to my car and go to your sister’s wedding.”
During Pillar of Defense,Eli and Emmanuel were released from their base at the Gaza border so they could attend their sister’s wedding.
“At first, I didn’t want to leave my fellow soldiers,” said Emmanuel, a physician in the Nahal Brigade’s 931st Battalion. “While their role is to watch over Israel and its civilians, mine is to watch over them.” But the soldiers insisted that Emmanuel join his younger brother.
Because they didn’t have their phones with them, the brothers couldn’t tell their family members that they were on their way to the wedding. With faces painted in camouflage and still wearing their dirty green uniforms, Eli and Emmanuel walked into the wedding hall at 11:00 PM.
The entire wedding hall was in shock. Just hours after preparing for battle, Eli and Emmanuel were surrounded by family and friends who were all crying and hugging them. And then everyone started dancing.
The IDF (Zahal) was founded in order to “protect our home”. There are many soldiers who share this same story. Military service is so pervasive in Israel that it is common for soldiers to miss important family events because of pressing military and security needs.
- Surprising the entire wedding, Emmanuel and Eli Zrihen were released from their base for the evening so they could attend their sister Eva’s wedding because of Operation Pillar of Defense.
- Eva gives a big hug to her brother Emmanuel, who almost didn’t make it to the wedding
- Surprising the entire wedding, Emmanuel and Eli Zrihen were released from their base for the evening so they could attend their sister Eva’s wedding.