Founder set up a field hospital near rave grounds on Oct. 7

After his friend was killed on Oct. 7, a 25-year-old raised millions for the war effort

Gidon Hazony started Soldiers Save Lives the day after David Newman was murdered in the Supernova massacre. It continues to help soldiers and civilians in the tragedy’s wake

Soldiers Save Lives team, L to R: Baruch Apisdorf, Gidon Hazony, David Gani, Kaila Zimnavoda, Ariel Cohen, and Moshe Shear. (Courtesy Soldiers Save Lives)
Soldiers Save Lives team, L to R: Baruch Apisdorf, Gidon Hazony, David Gani, Kaila Zimnavoda, Ariel Cohen, and Moshe Shear. (Courtesy Soldiers Save Lives)

Gidon Hazony woke up in his Jerusalem apartment on the morning of October 7 to the sound of a missile siren, but it wasn’t until a second siren went off soon afterward and videos from the country’s south started flooding in on social media that he realized something was seriously amiss.

A short time later, Hazony and some of his friends got a message from their childhood friend David Newman reading, “Pray for me,” and then another reading, “Something terrible has happened.”

Newman was among some 360 people murdered that day at the Supernova music festival, part of the largest massacre in Israeli history that saw thousands of Hamas-led terrorists storm over the border into southern Israel, butchering 1,200 people of all ages amid horrific acts of brutality and abducting 253 more to the Gaza Strip.

While the country was initially shocked by the October 7 onslaught, this soon gave way to a massive wave of civil volunteer work as organizations and individuals rallied together behind Israel’s military, which had set out to rescue the hostages and remove the threat of the Hamas terror organization from the country’s southern border.

One such organization was Soldiers Save Lives, which was founded by the 25-year-old Hazony immediately following October 7 to help supply the military during the war’s logistically challenging early days. The group, whose role has since evolved, was formed as a way to honor Newman’s memory.

Hazony said he met Newman when they were 14 and started playing soccer together.

“He was just such a warm and loving party boy,” Hazony said. “He just loved spreading that energy, he loved having parties, he loved inviting his friends to parties. He was very welcoming to everyone, and he was very sympathetic and empathetic and cared about everyone around him.”

David Newman, who was murdered by Hamas terrorists at the Supernova music festival on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy Soldiers Save Lives)

Hazony added that Newman was the person friends went to when they were going through difficult times.

“He provided a comfort zone for everyone because he wasn’t judgy, he wasn’t super competitive. He was always very loving,” Hazony said.

Attempted rescue

Hazony, who is close to finishing his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, volunteers for the Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency ambulance service and was a medic in the army. It was this experience that motivated him to go looking for Newman on October 7 when he realized his friend was in trouble.

Soldiers Save Lives founder Gidon Hazony. (Soldiers Save Lives)

Hazony’s roommate at the time was Newman’s cousin, who is also a medic. When they realized that Newman needed help, the two got into a car and drove south, stopping only to pick up a gun and bulletproof vests from a friend.

“We didn’t really understand that there was a war breaking out,” Hazony told The Times of Israel. “We thought it was just a terrorist attack at a party.”

When the two got close to the southern city of Sderot, they faced a roadblock, but the police let them through when they explained that they were medics trying to help a friend.

“Almost immediately we saw people lying by a car who looked like they needed help,” Hazony said. “We got out to help, but they were dead and had been for hours. This was shocking for me as a 25-year-old guy who was a medic in the army and a medic in MDA, but never saw anything serious.”

Eventually, Hazony, along with other medics in the area, opened a field hospital near Sderot and spent the day treating wounded people who had come from the Supernova festival. They never made it to the party grounds and could not help Newman, who they were later told had been killed before 7 a.m.

IDF soldiers pose with gear provided to them by Soldiers Save Lives. (Soldiers Save Lives)

“Around midnight on Saturday, I hitchhiked home and my friends and family were waiting for me,” Hazony said. “And then I realized that I had done something crazy, and on top of that my best friend had been killed, and on top of that we were at war, and I hadn’t realized all that was going on while I treated people on the border.”

Springing into action

That night, Hazony and his friends decided that they had to do something to help the war effort.

“It started on Sunday morning with basic missions like buying sleeping bags and hydration packs and delivering them to soldiers who were asking for them, and then delivering a drone to my brother who was on the way to battle and realizing that he didn’t have a bulletproof vest and I had to give him the one I was wearing,” Hazony said.

From there, the group’s plan escalated. By getting in touch with contacts the group had in New York and Israel, they arranged for a plane to take off from JFK Airport by Monday afternoon carrying nine tons of tactical and humanitarian aid to Israel that had been donated by Jewish communities in New York.

Soldiers Save Lives team members give tactical gear to IDF soldiers in need. (Soldiers Save Lives)

“We had no idea what we were doing,” Hazony said. “We got in trouble with customs and the Defense Ministry, meanwhile organizing new flights while having no idea what we were doing.”

Within a week, the organization had arranged for three more flights carrying aid and had raised almost half a million dollars.

The organization now has an office in Tel Aviv and a warehouse in Petah Tikva and has brought in $25 million of aid for the military and civilians and raised over $3 million. Aside from getting general aid, the group has also managed to fill specific requests for equipment by the Home Front Command’s search and rescue unit and the Air Force, and bought three armored ambulances for Israel’s police.

Evolving mission

As the months passed, the organization realized that needs were changing. While for the first couple of months, it had focused on helping supply the needs of the military and civil emergency response teams, the group has now found that its help is needed more by civilians. While it continues to help the military where needed, the primary focus has shifted elsewhere.

“We had an event recently for 200 displaced families where we collected a whole bunch of clothes in all different sizes that they could go through while the kids were playing,” Hazony said.

“We’ve also been doing a lot of social media,” he added. “We’ve been making a lot of ‘let’s do something’ kinds of videos encouraging people to stand up to tragedy and antisemitism.”

A member of the Soldiers Save Lives team sorts through combat boots awaiting distribution at the warehouse in Petah Tikva. (Soldiers Save Lives)

Through its work in the past few months, Soldiers Save Lives has gained recognition among Jewish communities in the United States, which Hazony said the organization uses to further its social influence, including by arranging to speak with Birthright groups visiting Israel.

“We realized that we had a responsibility [to use our influence] and it just became one of our programs,” he said. “[We’re] not necessarily… telling the world that Jews are good. That’s not what we’re doing. It’s more about inspiring Jews to take action than it is about inspiring non-Jews about Jews.”

While the organization was born from the needs of the war, Hazony said it was important to him that its work continues when the fighting ends.

“We’re becoming about social influence and about doing something and fighting antisemitism on some level,” he said.

When the war ends, Hazony said, he hopes the organization will continue its aid by providing assistance to amputees and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as continuing to provide aid in Israel wherever they are needed.

Bulletproof vests await distribution at the Soldiers Save Lives warehouse in Petah Tikva. (Soldiers Save Lives)

“There’s also our whole [social influence] educational program going on that I hope will go on forever because I think that’s very important,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure where we’re going to go, but as import winds down, social influence will go up.”

In the meantime, one event Soldiers Save Lives is organizing is an event for survivors of the Supernova music festival who have created art expressing their feelings about their ordeal. The survivors will take their art to New York, where they will speak about their experience and sell their work.

As for Hazony’s future, he said his October 7 experience has slightly dampened his “intense medic energy.”

“As a medic, it’s always been my instinct to run and help anyone who needs it, and I’ve realized lately that if I see someone who needs help and there’s already a medic there, I’m like, ‘Alright, they’re good. I don’t need to bother them,'” he said.

Once he has finished his degree, Hazony hopes to continue volunteering for MDA after completing an ambulance driver course. Ultimately, however, he hopes to become a teacher. But whatever he does, he intends to continue his work with Soldiers Save Lives.

“We have a responsibility to keep working,” he said.

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