(December 7, 2018 / Chabad.org/News) On the second night of Hanukkah, 15 Chabad-Lubavitch yeshivah students from Tzfat, Israel, headed 45 minutes north to bring holiday observance and cheer to Israeli troops based in the Lebanon-border town of Metulla. The visit had been pre-arranged weeks earlier, but when they got there on Monday, they found only a handful of soldiers milling about. Little did the students know that they would be providing spiritual preparation for troops embarking on a dangerous mission to destroy a terrorist tunnel that reached from Lebanon into Metulla.
“They’re all in a briefing,” one soldier said to Levi Deren, a 20-year-old yeshivah student from Greenwich, Conn., who led the group. “They’ll be out in a few minutes.”
Not a moment went by before a few dozen Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers spilled out into the common area. That’s when the singing and dancing began, olive-green and black-and-white in a whirling embrace. As has become custom on Israeli military bases from the north to the Negev, the Chabad yeshivah students were there to share the joy of the holiday. They distributed sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts, to each soldier, gifted them with tin menorahs and arranged a large menorah-lighting for the group.
“We saw clearly there was something going on,” says Deren. “When I spoke, I pointed out that on Hanukkah, we say, Bayamim Hahem, b’zman hazeh [‘In those days at this time’]. We will see the same miracles that we saw during the time of Hanukkah in our days. The Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson] taught that we need to bring the light of the menorah to even the darkest places, even if it is a few feet away from an enemy who wishes to destroy us.”
The next morning, Tuesday, the IDF announced that overnight it had destroyed a 40-meter-long tunnel built by the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah that started in the Lebanese town of Kfarkela and snaked into Metulla, an Israeli town of 1,000 surrounded on three sides by Lebanon. The 6-foot-by-6-foot tunnel was bored through solid rock and reached 130 feet into Israeli territory. It was the first to be destroyed in the newly launched “Operation Northern Shield.”
“The U.S. strongly supports Israel’s efforts to defend its sovereignty, and we call on Hezbollah to stop its tunneling into Israel,” National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted in a statement. “More broadly, we call on Iran and all of its agents to stop their regional aggression and provocation, which pose an unacceptable threat to Israeli and regional security.”
The Metulla visit was not the yeshivah students’ only venture to the northern border this Hanukkah. Over the first three nights of the eight-day holiday, the 50 students of Yeshivat Tzeirei Hashluchim in Tzfat have visited 30 bases along the Lebanese border and the Golan Heights. According to Sruli Brook, 20, of Brooklyn, N.Y., the students have distributed more than 2,000 doughnuts so far and kindled hundreds of menorahs.
“We also simply wanted to thank the soldiers for everything they are doing for us, and for the entire Jewish people,” says Brook. “They put their lives on the line for all of us each day, and they deserve our thanks and gratitude.”
Deren and his group spent the first night of Hanukkah visiting bases near Rosh Hanikra, where they similarly danced and sang with soldiers. As the night got late, they walked through the barracks giving out doughnuts and lighting menorahs with soldiers who were preparing to retire for the night. As the yeshivah students prepared to leave, one soldier pointed to a lookout.
“A few of us climbed up to this lookout, and it’s like literally 30 feet away from Lebanon,” says Deren. “The guys up there were so happy to see us. We set up a menorah in the dark, they made the blessings and lit it. It was beautiful.”
Meanwhile, not too far away, a group of the students were on their way back to Safed after a long evening. They had managed to visit a few bases, but due to a miscommunication had been denied access to the last one, leaving them in low spirits. As they drove down the long, dark highway, their driver noticed a lonely Jeep with a few soldiers sitting on the side of the road.
“We figured we could stop and at least give these few guys a good time,” says that group’s leader, Mendel Banon of Montreal. “We got out and they told us, ‘Our friends are just down the road, please come with us.’ ”
The students were led straight to a group of 60 young new conscripts, 18-year-old rookies just starting their training. They were in a field, in the dark and cold, in the middle of a 36-hour hike. What could be better than a providential midnight meeting with dancing yeshivah students bearing fried treats, snacks and candles?
Hike or no hike, field or no field, the group lit the menorah, singing the blessings and the songs in one group, together. The intrusion was not only allowed by the commander, but encouraged.
The next morning, yeshivah student Saadia Liberow texted pictures of the midnight encounter to one of the soldiers with whom he had exchanged numbers.
“Thank you for making our night,” the soldier wrote back. “And thank you to the Rebbe, who is always thinking of us.”
This article originally appeared on Chabad.org/News.