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IDF soldier’s video implores gap year students to stay in Israel, despite terror

Speaking in wake of murder of Ezra Schwartz, immigrant soldier Elisha Levy tells parents overseas they can help by not calling their children home

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Ezra Schwartz, center, was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist south of Jerusalem on November 19, 2015. At the time, Schwartz was spending a gap year at a Beit Shemesh yeshiva. (Facebook)
Ezra Schwartz, center, was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist south of Jerusalem on November 19, 2015. At the time, Schwartz was spending a gap year at a Beit Shemesh yeshiva. (Facebook)

A video message made and uploaded to Facebook by an IDF soldier and addressed to overseas students in Israel on gap year programs and their parents is going viral.

The video was posted in the wake of the murder of Ezra Schwartz by Palestinian terrorists on November 19. Schwartz was an 18-year-old American citizen from Boston participating in a gap year program of study and volunteering at a yeshiva in Beit Shemesh.

In the three-minute video, which was posted on Sunday and had garnered more than 53,000 shares by Monday, the soldier identifies himself as “Elisha” and says that he is “currently fighting in the IDF.”

He is Elisha Levy, a 21-year-old new immigrant to Israel who enlisted into a combat unit less than a year ago.

Elisha Levy in his video message (Facebook)
Elisha Levy in his video message (Facebook)

Born and raised just outside London, Levy studied in a yeshiva primarily for American students in Jerusalem’s Old City following his graduation from his Jewish high school.

In his video, Levy encourages foreign national students currently in Israel to stay here.

“Don’t go back home,” he tells the young people.

And to their parents he says, “Don’t want your children home, because this is home. And if you keep them here, then you’re winning the battle [against the terrorists].”

So after hearing a few guys tell me they were considering going home or generally scared because of the recent events…I felt obliged to post this. Please please click share this needs to be seen by all the right people! help win this new war! Stay in Israel! keep doing chesed! Share!

Posted by Elisha Levy on Sunday, November 22, 2015

He tells the parents that as heartbreaking as it is to read the news from Israel, especially of Schwartz’s killing, and as helpless as they feel, the right thing for them to do is to allow their children to stay in Israel as originally planned.

18-year-old Ezra Schwartz from Massachusetts, killed during a terrorist attack at the Gush Etzion Junction, November 19, 2015. (Courtesy)
18-year-old Ezra Schwartz from Massachusetts, killed during a terrorist attack at the Gush Etzion Junction, November 19, 2015. (Courtesy)

Levy told The Times of Israel that with his having himself been on a long-term study program in Israel not that long ago, he closely identifies with the gap year students he sees everywhere in Jerusalem when he comes home on leave.

“I was just like these kids a year or so ago,” he said. “In fact, I was visiting my old yeshiva when we heard the news about Ezra Schwartz’s brutal murder.”

Levy said it was upsetting for him to see and hear the reactions of the students who were standing around him.

“They were scared and giving up hope. They said they were throwing in the towel and ready to leave Israel,” he recounted.

The way Levy sees it, it is American students such as these who give strength to Israel.

“Jerusalem’s vibrance is because of them, and if they were to leave, it would be as though we were backing down and doing what the terrorists want us to do and letting them win,” he explained.

Levy admits in his video to not having known Schwartz personally, but he presumes with relative certainty that the murdered student would have wanted other young people currently in Israel for gap years to “continue learning, to continue doing hesed [righteous deeds].”

“Continue going out and giving the soldiers cakes. I hope he had an idea of what a difference it made to the soldiers, because I can personally tell it changes the day. It makes us so happy,” Levy tells the students in the video. Schwartz and others from his program were handing out food to lone soldiers (military personnel without immediate family in Israel, such as Levy) posted in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. He was killed when a terrorist sprayed the vehicle he and some other students were in with bullets as it waited in traffic to leave the area.

At the close of his taped message, Levy expresses the hope that the video will reach Schwartz’s parents.

“You had a special son who understood was hesed was, who understood what the world is and what the world needs,” he says.

Levy, who told The Times of Israel he has been astounded by the viral nature of his video, said he would like to take advantage of this the momentum to spread his message further. He said he is thinking of starting a campaign, which he is tentatively calling, “Winning this new war.” By “new war” he means the current terror wave, which is unprecedented in the lifetimes of the younger generation.

“It involves people doing hesed on a major scale in memory of Ezra,” he said.

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