Etan Goldman doesn’t pack light. On a Wednesday El Al flight from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, he brought with him six large pieces of luggage filled with bullet proof vests, knee pads, toiletries, and flashlights.
There was also a case of Fresca and a box of Entenmann’s donuts.
The supplies were for those helping in the war effort. The food was for a friend. “I knew he was going through a difficult time,” Goldman said Sunday in a video call, “and I knew he needed some comfort food.”
Goldman, who goes by the name Etan G, is a 53-year-old rapper who, in more peaceful times, runs a program called Rock4Israel, which brings musicians to perform in Israel. He’s now bringing something else: supplies to help soldiers called to fight since a surprise attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 killed 1,300 Israelis and launched a war. Israel has called up some 360,000 reservists since the attack, and more than 125 Israelis continue to be held hostage, the Israeli Defense Forces confirmed on Sunday.
Goldman sprang into action after spotting an online list of tactical gear needed by Israeli soldiers. He quickly crowdsourced among his friends and secured a number of needed supplies. The only thing left to get was his wife’s permission to fly into a war zone.
It took her a day, but she gave Goldman, a father of four, the green light. “She texted me one word,” he said. “Yes.”
Chaos and confusion
Ad-hoc supply runs by American Jews like Goldman have spurred the Israeli government to send out a detailed list of the exact items needed. The list — which includes bulletproof vests, drones, helmets and knee pads — cites specific brands and model numbers that Israel wants to receive.
Some groups have already sent supplies and, in one instance, a chartered flight full of military gear. But not all of it is making its way to the battlefield. “That gear was easily available, which usually means it doesn’t meet the specifications,” a source told the Times of Israel, adding that the influx of donated goods has created a “logistics and supply chain nightmare.”
Some of the goods Goldman brought over didn’t end up meeting army specifications. He and some others have developed an unofficial workaround, giving their basic battle gear to local police officers who, in turn, have given their own army-approved gear to soldiers.
The IDF said it is also accepting cash donations for soldiers’ welfare. Those looking to contribute can email Trumot_migun@mod.gov.il.
‘The power of your presence’
Etan Goldman, inset, attended a last-minute wedding on Oct. 15, 2023, in Israel. Courtesy of Etan Goldman
Goldman has some experience with this. He flew a similar mission to Israel in 1991 during the Gulf War. “There are things that you can do here that you don’t even have to plan,” he said. On Sunday afternoon, he took part in a massive effort in Modi’in in central Israel to grill burgers for IDF soldiers. Later that night, he attended a last-minute wedding. “Never underestimate the power of your presence,” he said.
Asked what he plans on doing during the duration of his time in Israel, he said he’s playing it by ear. He’s offered to babysit, do household chores or just be a shoulder to cry on.
Goldman has no return flight home scheduled yet — perhaps to his wife’s chagrin — but the trip has provided him another opportunity: visiting his children. Two of his teenage kids are currently studying in Israel, and one plans to join the army next year when she is eligible.
“I asked my daughter Maayan if she was sure she wanted to serve in the IDF,” Goldman recalled.
Like her dad, she didn’t hesitate.
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