Ottawa man departs Canada to join IDF fight against Hamas terrorists

‘We understand that the only way for us to achieve the peace that we desire with all of our hearts, is to be strong’

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As Ottawa’s Nir Koren prepares to enter Israel’s front line battle against terror, he knows his wife and children back in Canada will be well looked after.

Koren, who departed Canada for Israel on Friday, is one of the thousands of Jews around the world answering the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) call for citizens to return and defend their country, nearly two weeks after the brutal terrorist attack conducted against Israeli civilians by Hamas.

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“I left my family, I left my five children. It is not easy for them that their father is in a place that isn’t very secure right now,” he said.

But even through the pain of leaving his family in Canada, he knows his wife will be well taken care of.

“I cannot say that she’ll do it all by herself, because of the unity of the whole community,” he told the National Post from Israel.

“Everyone wanted to feel they are supporting in some way, and they helped her to do everything — she’s not alone.”

Koren, who was born in Israel, works as a lawyer for Tamir, an Ottawa-based charity providing support for those with developmental disabilities and autism.

He departed Ottawa on Friday for Israel, a long, three-day journey that eventually landed him at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

Koren, like many observant Jews, didn’t immediately learn of the Oct. 7 attacks as he was observing Shabbat.

“It sounded like a Holocaust, it didn’t sound like an attack, it didn’t sound like a military response for anything,” he said, describing the attack as an act that transcends even terrorism.

“It was a massacre.”

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The attacks didn’t stem out of any territorial disputes, Koren observed.

“It is because we are Jews, nothing else,” he said.

“It’s something that we haven’t experienced in over 80 years. The hatred, the fact they showed no mercy to anyone. They laughed, they enjoyed the killing.”

The videos, photos and witness testimony all showed Hamas terrorists taking delight in their depravity, Koren said. That is what stuck out for him, and is part of the reason why he decided to join the fight.

That collective terror, as the days went on, transformed into a unifying resolve among all Israelis, Koren said.

“As a community, the Jews, it took us back to those moments when we didn’t have a state, when everyone could massacre us and the world didn’t do anything,” he said.

“Those scars will never heal, and what happened two weeks ago was again opening this wound. Our identity, our Judaism, is the only factor.”

Despite those who choose to defend Hamas’ actions two weeks ago, Koren said the attack was neither expected or justifiable.

“There was no trigger. They are not fighting for any rights, they are not looking to improve the lives of anyone, they know what they will do is destruction for everybody — and they’re only doing it because we are Jewish.”

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This isn’t the first time Koren has answered the call of duty for Israel.

Koren served during Israel’s second war with Lebanon in 2006 — a month-long conflict that started when Lebanese-based Hezbollah militants, using a rocket barrage as cover, stormed across the country’s northern borders near the town of Zar’it to ambush IDF soldiers.

Compared to his previous combat experience, he said this conflict feels different.

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“We fought against soldiers (in Lebanon,) we didn’t fight against civilians,” he said.

“The joy that they had killing people and taking the lives of innocent babies, showing their parents before they are killed,” he said.

“They wanted to make suffering, they wanted to make that impact. They wanted to show that this is not a normal war. They have no rules, there is no mercy, and that’s what terrifies us so much.”

Many Israelis spoke of a strong sense of unity felt across the country after the attacks, that past differences and ideological differences dividing much of the country melted away as the country reeled.

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It’s a sentiment Koren agrees with, recalling a quote from former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, who famously remarked that if the Palestinians put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence, but if the Jews laid down their arms, there would be no more Israel.

“We understand that the only way for us to achieve the peace that we desire with all of our hearts, is to be strong,” he said.

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) spokesperson Nicole Amiel said the support for Israel by Canada’s Jewish community, “whether by returning to fight in the IDF reserves, raising money for various humanitarian causes, attending solidarity rallies, and beyond,” is a source of pride and inspiration.

“It’s of course no surprise given the strong, historic, and emotional attachment that the Jewish people have to the land of Israel,” she said

As Israel continues their efforts to enter Gaza and free the hostages, Koren said there’s little use to rationalize Hamas’s attack.

“There are no ‘buts’ in this story,” he said.

“It is not ‘but, you did something.’ There are no ‘buts.’ They are pure evil.”

Koren dismissed those who felt the need to justify or even defend the Oct. 7 attacks.

“Whenever somebody tries to show ‘the other side,’ he’s participating in this massacre. There is no ‘other side’ in this equation.

“There are no ‘buts.’”

• Email: [email protected] | X: @bryanpassifiume

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Originally posted 2023-10-17 19:32:13.