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Sunday, April 14, 2024

“My Husband Gave His Life in Gaza for the Jewish People”

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An interview with Hadas Lowenstern, wife of fallen soldier Elisha

By: Rachel Trilokekar

“He was the love of my life,” said Hadas Loewenstern in a now-viral video tribute about her beloved husband, Elisha Loewenstern (z”l), who died heroically at 38 defending Israel in Gaza.

Elisha had been on his way to rescue soldiers wounded in battle when an anti-tank missile fired by Hamas killed him. In addition to his wife, Elisha leaves behind 6 children—the youngest is 11 months and the oldest is 12, preparing for his bar mitzvah later in the year.

Elisha Loewenstern (z”l) died heroically at 38 defending Israel in Gaza.

What makes this story even more extraordinary is that Elisha was exempt from serving because of their family size. However, Hadas and Elisha felt a sense of duty to contribute. Elisha enlisted to fight, and Hadas cared for their children at home.

When Hadas speaks, you can’t help but be drawn to her. She expresses herself with a mix of humility and conviction that has the power to inspire and transform.

In a video interview, the deep bond that Hadas and Elisha share is palpable.

Hamas seeks to destroy families, kill innocents, and separate loved ones by taking hostages. Rather than falling into despair, we have an opportunity to do the exact opposite–by strengthening ourselves and fortifying our marital bonds and relationships. Hadas consistently conveyed this message, and it made me wonder how we might emulate the unity she and her husband so effectively achieved.

Hadas was happy to share with me. She emphasized that she and her husband were actually very different. She is outgoing and upfront, while he was shy and soft-spoken. Their backgrounds differed as well: He was born in New York and made Aliya to Israel with his family at the age of 8, whereas Hadas is a native Israeli. He grew up observant of Torah, while she only became observant at the age of 24.

Regardless of their differences, Hadas recognized early on that Elisha was right for her. “I saw that he was a righteous man. He was an ish emet, a ‘man of truth’. I admired and respected him so much for this.” Hadas spoke about his impeccable character attributes; he was kind-hearted, purpose-driven, attentive to detail and a good listener. He was also a man of integrity with a steadfast commitment to G‑d.

She went on to say, “As different as we were, we got along well. We both thought how amazing it would be to have all of these different characteristics in our home. We really felt that our differences, even though they weren’t easy, enriched us.”

However, at the heart of their core values, Hadas and Elisha were in complete alignment.

The first of their deeply shared values was their zeal in the creation of a home where Torah is the focal point of their household.

Elisha Loewenstern (z”l) and three of his children.

Elisha, a successful software engineer, was also an ordained rabbi and an advanced Torah scholar. He was committed to learning the Daily Rambam and was known as a pillar of the community in Harish, where he taught extensively. He internalized his Torah study, developing not only his knowledge but his character. He also made it a priority to have older, wiser mentors that he could learn from and emulate. Hadas mentioned that Rav Eliyahu Blumenzweig, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yerucham, profoundly influenced Elisha and played a significant role in the growth of his spiritual world.

Like her husband, Hadas is a truth seeker. In a video interview, Hadas mentioned that while serving in the IDF she had a pivotal encounter with a soldier who was a religious Jew. She found herself compelled to ask herself serious questions, such as, “Who am I? Why do I live in Israel? Why do our enemies hate us so much? What is so unique about the Jewish nation? Why are we different from all other nations?” The answers she discovered were so impactful that she felt an undeniable pull to learn more and dedicate herself to a life of Torah.

During the interview, a wave of emotion occasionally overcame Hadas as she spoke about Elisha. “I knew from the beginning how special he was, and I always knew it throughout our marriage,” she reflected. These words of appreciation emphasize another core value shared by Elisha and Hadas: a deeply ingrained sense of gratitude. “I’m the only woman in the world who had the privilege of marrying Elisha,” Hadas says.

“Every night before we went to bed, we would say to each other, ‘Thank you for marrying me. I love you. I appreciate you.’ It may not seem like much, but when you do it every day, it becomes very significant,” Hadas shared. They welcomed 3 children in 4 years, followed by 3 more. “Of course, I still face challenges, but I am so thankful for what I have,” she acknowledges. “I have 6 Elishas.”

Her husband enjoyed showing his appreciation for Hadas. He made it a tradition to buy her a gift for every Rosh Chodesh (new Hebrew month). This tradition continued even after his passing. Last Rosh Chodesh, after her husband had already been killed, Hadas received an unexpected visit from a stranger who delivered a necklace to her. Hadas instantly knew that it was a gift from Elisha, sent straight from heaven. “Who else sends his wife presents from Heaven?!” she exclaimed.

One might think Hadas would regret their decision for her husband to enlist, but she says they harbored no doubts because the decision was rooted in the mindset that they—as a unit—had a mission: Every decision was about “How will it benefit the Jewish nation?” rather than “How will it affect us?”

To Hadas, this perspective represents the Jewish way of life. She explains, “When a non-Jewish couple gets married, they face each other during the wedding ceremony and afterward, they often enjoy a honeymoon alone. In contrast, when a Jewish couple stands under the chuppah, they are facing Am Yisrael. Immediately after the ceremony, they are embraced by the community for seven days of unified celebration.

When Elisha was permitted to briefly return home from the war to spend Shabbat with his family, they both felt compelled to invite guests for Shabbat instead of preferring time as a family alone. For the Loewenstern family, “To be normal is to be on the giving side.”

Though Elisha is no longer with them, Hadas wants her and the children to continue being a happy, giving family. She acknowledges her vulnerability without Elisha and recognizes her current need for support from others. Yet, she is determined for her family not to be perceived as needy and to always continue thinking of others.

At the conclusion of our interview, I asked Hadas what final message she wanted to impart to the Jewish nation. She answered:

“Just to know that even through all the difficulties of this generation, we are immensely privileged to live in this era—the one that will, G‑d willing, witness the coming of the Moschiach. This is something to be so grateful for.”

Listening to Hadas, it’s clear that strength in the face of adversity stems from actualizing our unique mission and purpose, while cultivating a deep sense of gratitude for all that we have. This is how we can cultivate trust in G‑d, knowing we are here for a reason.

As Hadas so eloquently reminds us, “It’s not about when you die, but how you lived. And though Elisha died once, he lived every single day of his life.”

We can do the same. We can choose to act with confident conviction in who we are and what we have to give, forging a legacy of unity and resilience that not only inspires, but transforms—for generations to come.


Rachel Trilokekar is a certified life coach empowering individuals to live with clarity, passion and purpose. She specializes in the areas of self-development and growth, successful dating and relationships. In addition to her coaching practice, she enjoys sharing insights as a freelance writer and motivational speaker. She lives with her family in Atlanta, Georgia.

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