IDF Corporal Nechemia Rubin
Beilinson Hospital, Petach Tikva

Dear Nechemia,

Although I don't recall ever meeting face to face, the closeness I feel to you today is beyond any gap of time or space separating us.

When I read about what you went through this week I was filled with admiration and respect for your devotion to the Jewish nation.

Our paths started quite similarly: both of our parents established Chabad-Lubavitch Centers—yours in Elon Moreh, Israel, and mine in Stamford, CT.

And we both followed in our parents' footsteps; we both are in the service of our nation.

I never had a land mine blow up in my face Yet, while there are many challenges in establishing and developing a Jewish community in the West Coast of Cape Town, South Africa, I never had a land mine blow up in my face as I was doing my shlichut.

While we both got married and are blessed with wonderful partners in our work, only two months after your wedding, your wife is at the hospital bedside as you recover from your battle wounds.

The entire Jewish world owes a unique and deep debt of gratitude to you and all of you colleagues, the soldiers in the IDF, for your sacrifices day in and day out.

It is no coincidence that this past Tuesday, the day of your incident in Gaza, the day's section of the weekly Torah reading recounted the story of a fighter who stood up for the safety of a fellow Jew—perhaps the first soldier of the IDF.

It was only a few hundred kilometers south of Gaza, in the land of Egypt. Another Jew, much like the Jews of Sderot and Ashkelon today, was being attacked by a terrorist.

Moses, the young adopted prince who resided in Pharaoh's palace, saw his fellow Jew in danger. And, despite the danger involved, he struck back, eliminating the terrorist threat.

And just like today's UN, Arab League, etc., he too was condemned, by Pharaoh. Even some of his fellow Jews labeled him as a criminal for defending their right to live!

Seeing that his actions had put him in danger, Moses fled the country. Soon thereafter, having taken on the somewhat more subdued occupation of a shepherd, he experiences his first divine revelation, at the burning bush, leading to what later would become the miraculous exodus from Egypt.

But the defining act that set off the chain of events leading Moses to the critical moment of his accepting the leadership of the Jewish people was when he put his life in physical tangible danger, in order to save a fellow Jew.

You, Nechemia, and your thousands of colleagues have taken Moses' lesson to heart.

The Jewish world owes a unique and deep debt of gratitude to you From here in Cape Town, and from every other corner of the world, we extend our heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery, and we will continue to pray for you, Nechemia Sholom Dovber ben Arlene, and for your brave commander Aharon Yehoshua ben Chaya Shoshana, and all of your fellow soldiers.

Be strong and courageous! May you be strengthened in your work and, please G‑d, your mission will soon be completed to bring true peace to our Holy Land.

With respect and admiration,

Asher Deren