It was a normal routine day of entering and leaving Gaza many times. Shimon Lugassi’s battalion was walking back from Gaza after completing a mission. 100 meters from the fence we used a gulley as a meeting point.” There were 4 of us waiting for the armored personnel carrier to take us home. Our commanders disarmed our weapons and we were resting up from our mission.”
A few minutes before the APC’s came Shimon noticed one of his friends not wearing his protective vest. We were prohibited from removing these vests without a special order so I asked him if we received that order. He told me we did, so I happily removed my vest too.”
The APC’s came and everyone got ready to get on them. “You can’t just take off a vest, they have a special clip you must close so they don’t break. As soon as I removed my vest I bent down to close the lower clips.”
At that moment there was a loud boom and then two more. “At first I didn’t understand what had happened. It was at the very moment I was bent down even before I could close the first clip,” Lugasi retells the story of those fearful moments. I lay on the ground for many long minutes hardly seeing anything and hardly breathing. Then I heard the shouting…”
The mortars fell one after the other. One hit the gate another hit the tanks and the third one the mass of gathered troops. Five of Shimon’s friends were killed on the spot, tens of troops were wounded and many lost limbs. Shimon came out unscathed.
“Bend down I want to bless you”
Only then did Shimon understand the great miracle that happened to him. “The mortar fell 5 meters away from me but because I was bent down, the armor of the APC protected me from the blast. Anyone that was standing up was a either immediately killed or critically wounded. In the first seconds after the blast I reflexively did according to orders. I took cover, armed my weapon and looked for enemies. When I saw that the area was sterile I went to help my wounded friends and brought the wounded and dead to our evacuation point.”
Now let’s backtrack. Shimon’s grandfather also named Shimon who he was named after according to family custom, was a G-d fearing man. Shimon our soldier, though coming from a traditional and less religious home always went to Torah schools but in 12th grade he became lax religious wise. But for him the army was a turnaround. He strengthened himself spiritually during his military service. “Being disconnected from the family and seeing the terrible things that I did in Gaza did their thing. The last attack was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was not the same Shimon after that.”
“A few days later they sent us home to recover. I hadn’t yet said a word about what happened to my parents but when I came home my father was all emotional and I asked him; “what happened, Abba”? he told me that my grandmother had a dream about my late grandfather Shimon that I’m named after. In the dream she saw him tell me; “Bend down Shimon, I want to bless you”.
How did you react?
“I was very emotional; it was then I saw G-d's supervision over me. This message hit me in one shot. Then I told my parents what happened, there was a lot of emotion and crying”.
Miracles like this happen all the time but not everyone gets the message behind it to repent. Shimon understood the message and didn’t waste a moment. “My faith in the Creator grew exponentially since then. I couldn’t ignore G-d watching over me” Shimon said. “The after I was discharged it was clear to me where I was going and in which direction. I went straight to Jerusalem to learn in a Yeshiva. I feel I got my life as a gift and I value every moment. And believe me, life without G-d and his providence is not a true life.”