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Chicago man leaves life behind, commands Israeli unit against Hamas

An Israeli American commander gave Scripps News rare access to his 500-member Jerusalem Wolves battalion as it prepares to fight Hamas.
Chicago man leaves life behind, commands Israeli unit against Hamas
Posted at 7:13 AM, Oct 25, 2023

As Israel has mobilized its largest call-up of reserves in the country's history, many of those soldiers have come from the United States, putting their lives on hold. 

One of them is a 38-year-old Israeli American man from Chicago who asked Scripps News to identify him only as Shraga. Shraga commands an infantry of his 500-member Jerusalem Wolves battalion. His battalion is ready to go into Gaza and fight Hamas directly. 

"I'm sure that Hamas has a lot of surprises waiting for us, a lot of underground tunnels, a lot of booby traps, a lot of houses, snipers as well, and we're prepared for that," Shraga said. 

When Scripps News' Jason Bellini asked if he was nervous, he responded: "It would be foolish to tell you that as a man standing before a war that there's no fear. Of course, there's some fear, but it's manageable. And we trained for this and prepared for this."

Shraga was at his home in Chicago on Oct. 7, watching on television the horror unfolding as Hamas terrorists massacred and kidnapped civilians and soldiers. He immediately left behind his life in Chicago and his job in finance to help Israel in its fight against Hamas.

"I packed up my suitcase, and within an hour, I was at the airport and got the first flight back to Israel," he said. "Sunday afternoon, I was already back here with my reserve unit at the battlefield."

That battlefield still had bodies strewn all over when he arrived. 

"I have a little over 500 soldiers here and we're all shocked by what we've seen in the past few days," he said. "We've been collecting bodies of our own and seen many bodies of Hamas terrorists as well."

SEE MORE: US forming plans for Americans in Mideast if Israel-Hamas war spreads

The major has been on reserve duty with the Israel Defense Forces since 2004. He has come to fight before. In 2016 in the West Bank, a Palestinian militant attacked him with a knife.

"Very close to death. I was stabbed in the chest by a terrorist who stabbed me from behind," Shraga said.

But he felt he had "no other choice" than to return to his unit to make sure that a day like Oct. 7 never happens again.

"I don't know one out of my whole 500-people brigade that is bloodthirsty," Shraga said. "Are we angry? For sure. We're angry at Hamas. We're angry at what Hamas has brought on us and what it's bringing now on their own citizens. Other troops that you're seeing around here, we are the promise that never again, that never again Jews would be slaughtered, unprotected. So whatever it takes and whatever it means, we're going to get our job done."

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