|Ari Fuld and IDF special forces soldier (and grandson of the Satmar Rebbe) Chaim Meisels.|
The Jews of Lawrence-Cedarhurst NY are no strangers when it comes to IDF support. There are tens of “Lone soldiers” who are currently serving in the IDF from that area. That is why it was no surprise that the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst made a very generous donation and asked Standing Together to help a specific unit in which one of their congregants has a nephew serving.
We made contact with the officer of the elite Egoz unit and after a month of preparations we scheduled a day to meet them on base and give them the gear that was sponsored by YILC.
As we drove on to the base it was hard not to notice the smiles on the soldiers’ faces.
The Egoz unit is a “Sayeret”(Elite) unit and they have now been on base for over 3 weeks in an intense training course. Their phones have been confiscated and I cannot tell you details of their training regimen, but I can tell you that they have been completely cut off from the outside world and they are working hard, VERY HARD!
As we unloaded the water packs, dry-fit clothing, Leatherman utility tools and personalized gear backpacks to give out to the soldiers, we could hear the bursting excitement from the soldiers.
“Oh my God! WOW! Where is this from? Are you serious?! YEEESSHHH! (‘Yeah baby’ in Hebrew).”
The truth is, if the day would have ended right there, it would have been a perfect day, but nothing prepared me for what happened next!
I asked the guys if there is someone who speaks English as we are looking for someone to send a video message back to the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst. They all immediately pointed to a specific Kipah wearing soldier and as I walked over to introduce myself he stood up to shake my hand and say thank you.
I have met many Lone soldiers and the first thing any respectable Jew does is play Jewish geography, so I asked him where he is from.
When he answered Borough Park, I felt my face shift in wonder as I said, “Did you say Borough Park?!”
He gently smiled and repeated it again, Borough Park.
The prominent Ultra-Orthodox community in Borough Park, NY does not have many kids drafting into the IDF, so my curiosity was at its apex.
I asked the soldier for his name and when he responded, Chaim Meisels, my knees buckled.
Chaim Meisels is no ordinary Lone soldier. Chaim Meisels is the grandson of the Satmar Rebbe!
(I will pause here a second for those of you who just fell off your chair or spilled your drink.)
You read correctly, Chaim Meisels is the grandson of the Berach Moshe, better known as the Satmar Rebbe.
What is he doing in Sayeret Egoz?
I asked the question and before I knew it, I was in a deep discussion with this very special Lone soldier.
One can understand if Chaim would have been angry and bitter towards Satmar as they completely shut him out since he left, but that is simply not the case.
As much as I tried not to speak about politics and hashkafa, it is a little difficult when speaking to the Satmar Rebbe’s grandson who happens to also be wearing an IDF uniform and serving in one of the IDF’s most elite units.
No matter how many times I asked about his family and Satmar, Chaim did not have a single negative word to say about anyone.
“I love my parents dearly and have only love and respect for them.” That is the way Chaim answered my question about his family’s reaction to his decision to join the IDF.
It’s not that I was looking for something negative to report, I just wanted to understand the hardships Chaim had to go to to get to where he is now. No matter how many questions I asked, Chaim had only positive things to say.
Even when I inquired about his recent trip to the States for his brothers wedding, Chaim refused to say anything negative.
I knew from a friend in the Satmar community that when Chaim arrived dressed in a bekeshe and all, the community did not allow him into the hall for his own brother’s wedding.
Chaim smiled and said, “In the end my parents let me in and it was a happy and beautiful Chassene (wedding).”
I cannot imagine the amount of personal strength and courage needed to do what Chaim did and I do not really know how the Satmar community is reacting. What I do know is that while supplying Chaim and his unit with gear, I felt a tremendous feeling of unity.
A young IDF soldier by the name of Chaim Meisels taught me, in his modest and Menshlechkite way, that a love for Am Yisrael and a positive attitude is more powerful than anything else.
About the Author: Ari Fuld is a sergeant in an IDF reserves elite paratroopers unit. His is the assistant director of Standing Together, an organization that supports IDF soldiers.