Fast Friday Joe Yudin woke at 4:30 a.m. to take a Manhattan family on a tour of Masada. Afterward, they swam in the Dead Sea, visited the caves of Qumram, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and then headed to Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. As they were on their way to the David Citadel Hotel, Yudin’s cellphone went off. Even before he answered, he knew he would not be able to continue the tour.
"You look at your cellular phone and you know immediately what it is," he told The Jewish Standard that day from his home in the Jezreel Valley. "For the last week we’ve been expecting the call, and every time the phone rings, you think it’s going to be it."
Joe and Meirav Yudin with their daughter Gessen.
The caller was a commander from the Israeli Defense Forces. Yudin, who made aliyah from Wyckoff in 199′, is one of about 30,000 reserve soldiers called up for the fight against Hezbollah. He immediately dropped the tourists at the hotel and headed home to spend Shabbat with his wife Meirav and their daughters Gessen, 5, and Dekkel, 3. Sunday morning he was to report for a week of basic training.
"What other army would let you spend Shabbat with your family before the reserves?" he asked. "It’s pretty amazing."
As Yudin prepared to report to the army, his parents in Wyckoff prepared to leave for Israel to help out their daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Bob and Susan Yudin, owners of the Wyckoff home appliance store Yudin’s Inc., had already decided that if their son were called to the reserves, at least one of them would head to Israel. Last Friday morning, both decided to make the trip.
"We’ll stay there and help with the family and do whatever else is necessary," Bob Yudin said in a phone interview the same day his son was called up. He and his wife did the same thing in ’00’ when their son had been called up for Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin after the Park Hotel bombing in Netanya. They left for Israel on Sunday, just as their son was leaving to join his reserve unit.
The 37-year-old Wyckoff native made aliyah when he was ‘3, after a post-college-graduation tour of Europe and Israel. He and his friends were on a kibbutz in Israel in 1990 as Iraq lobbed Scud missiles at the country, hoping to provoke it into the Persian Gulf War.
"It made a deep impression on me," Joe Yudin said, remembering that he had asked himself, "Why is Saddam trying to kill us? What did we do? Nothing." He felt that Israel was the world’s scapegoat and he knew he had to help. He made aliyah specifically to join the paratroopers’ unit.
"I wanted to do something," he said.
Bob Yudin is in the middle of campaigning to be Bergen County freeholder. He told the Standard that although he and his wife have an open-ended ticket and will stay in Israel as long as needed, he hopes to return before the November election.
"The survival of Israel is at stake here. My political career doesn’t count," he said. "If I have to campaign from Israel, I’ll campaign from Israel." The Arab/Islamic world is trying to take over the world, he added. "Our fight is Israel’s fight."
Joe Yudin agreed with his father. It was about 7 p.m. in Israel when he spoke with the Standard last Friday. At about 3:30 that afternoon, he witnessed a rocket fall in Afula, just two miles from his home. As he spoke with the Standard, Yudin and his wife could still see smoke rising into the sky.
"We can’t live like this. They’re launching rockets at us. We had withdrawn from Lebanon, the United Nations affirmed that we had withdrawn completely, yet they abduct our soldiers and fire missiles indiscriminately," he said. "If we give in to it, we lose. If we allow Hezbollah to return to south Lebanon, we will lose. These people are no better than Nazis. They want our destruction."
Bob Yudin, a Navy flier during the Vietnam war, understands his son’s convictions. "He’s very comfortable about what he’s doing, very adamant that in the end Israel will persevere," he said.
Bob and Susan Yudin had originally planned to go to Israel in November. But, Susan Yudin said, when their son told them he had been called up, they decided they did not want to be outside of Israel.
Supporting her son and Israel’s fight is the most important thing for Susan Yudin now, and she hopes that others in America will do whatever they can to help the Jewish state. Yet, as proud as she is to support the country and her son as he defends it, she admits to a feeling of apprehension when watching news updates.
"You worry about your son, and when you hear something happened to a soldier, you say ‘I hope it’s not my own son, but I hope it’s not anybody else’s son,’" she said.