During 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, Benyamin Moss, a high school teacher in Baltimore, was one of many Jews who sought out a connection with soldiers in the IDF. A hotline had been set up to distribute names of Israeli soldiers so that people could daven for them, so Benyamin called in. He was assigned to daven for Eitan ben Edna.
The Gaza ground invasion began on Thursday night. Benyamin did his due diligence, mentioning Eitan ben Edna during Maariv, and then at Shacharis Friday morning. But when he sat down to breakfast after davening, he discovered that one IDF soldier had already been killed — First Sergeant Eitan Barak, fatally shot by a Hamas gunman in North Gaza at 3 a.m. Could this be his soldier?
He frantically searched news sites for Barak’s mother’s name, only to come up empty. Eitan is one of the ten most popular names in Israel, but Edna is fairly uncommon, so Benyamin decided that unless someone presented him with further evidence, he would continue to daven for “his” soldier until the war was over. He stored “Eitan ben Edna” in his phone’s memory, including the boy in his tefillos three times a day, but privately doubted that it made a difference. He had a bad feeling about it.
Eventually the danger subsided, and Israel withdrew from Gaza. Months passed, eventually years. This summer, Benyamin decided to spend some time in Eretz Yisrael. He had not been there since Operation Protective Edge, and a visit was long overdue.
The Kosel, Me’aras Hamachpeilah, a couple of good hikes — the itinerary was carefully planned, except for one thing. Benyamin wanted to get a brachah from Rav Chaim Kanievsky, but he’d heard that it was really, really hard to get an audience. He did have a secret weapon, though — his grandmother lived in Eretz Yisrael, and she had connections. He called her up, hopeful. Did she know of anyone who could help him get in?
“Of course,” she said. “Have you tried Tzvika Cohen? He’s a big macher over here with access to all the gedolim. Just call him and tell him I sent you.” She gave Benyamin the number.
Benyamin called Tzvika and explained the situation.
“Sure, no problem,” Tzvika said easily. “I can get you in to Rav Chaim. When are you arriving? Give me your flight number. Call me when you get here.”
Benyamin took his phone number, writing it in an address book. He’d be leaving his American phone behind for the few weeks of his vacation. There were other things to pack: his clothing, some sefarim, gifts for family members in Israel. The days flew by, and soon he was about to leave.
On his way out the door, Benyamin took one last look at his phone – Eitan ben Edna, that’s right. He’d heard the stories of chutznikim meeting their assigned IDF soldiers in Israel and seen the InspireClips video about a woman who traveled to Israel, and, through a series of seeming coincidences, went to a restaurant and met the soldier the had prayed for. Wouldn’t it be funny, he thought, if he met someone who’d known his??
The plane landed in Ben Gurion Airport, and Benyamin collected his carry-on items. He followed the other passengers up the aisle of the plane, into the jetway, and joined the slow-moving crowd making their way to passport control and customs. Just inside the terminal, VIP escorts waited, brandishing signs with their passengers’ names. To Ben’s surprise, one of them held a sign reading “Benyamin Moss.”
“Uh, I’m Benyamin Moss,” he said. “Who are you?”
“Shalom,” the escort said. He was a tall young man in his early twenties and spoke in accented English. “This guy Tzvika ordered VIP service for you. They sent me to pick you up. I’m going to take you through passport control and get your luggage.”
That was a luxury service Benyamin hadn’t been expecting. The escort took his bags, sat him in a “golf cart,” and began to drive, bypassing the walkways and crowds. When they reached the fast-track section of passport control, they both got out of the cart, with the escort taking Ben’s carry-on items. “Thank you very much,” Benyamin said. “Uh, what’s your name?
“Ah, I’m sorry, I forgot. I’m Eitan.”
Benyamin smiled at the coincidence. “Did you serve in the army?”
“Betach, of course.”
“In Tzuk Eitan?” Benyamin asked, referring to Operation Protective Edge by its Hebrew name.
“Yes…” Eitan said slowly.
Ben’s heart was beating quickly now. “This is going to sound very weird, but what’s your mother’s name?”
Eitan looked at him strangely. “Her name is Edna. Why do you ask?”
Rabbi Yoel Gold, rabbi of congregation Beis Naftali in Los Angeles, California, and a ninth-grade rebbe at Yeshiva Mesivta Birkas Yitzchak, has inspired hundreds of thousands of people with his stories through his popular video series. To watch some of his videos or to share your story with him, please visit InspireClips.com.