“Let’s Do Something:” The Story of Soldiers Save Lives with COO Ike Bodner

By: Emily Goldberg  |  April 16, 2024

By Emily Goldberg, Publication Manager and Layout Editor

“Has anyone found Newman?”  

The story of Soldiers Save Lives, an organization that helps ship equipment to soldiers in need in wake of the Israel-Hamas war, began on October 7. The organization was created by Baruch (Bucky) Apisdorf, Ike Bodner, Gidon Hazony, Moshe Shear, Gabriel Rivera and David Gani, a group of friends who felt a strong need to take action in memory of their friend David Newman, who was murdered on that tragic day. For Ike Bodner, David’s dear friend, October 7 feels like yesterday. 

When Ike Bodner woke up in his home in Tel Aviv to sirens sounding in Israel on October 7, he quickly realized that something about that day was different. “I turn on the news, and within an hour I see a video of a white truck… with a couple guys in the back in the truck bed, holding RPGs with headbands on,” Bodner began in this interview with the YU Observer. With the incoming news reports, he and his wife quickly realized “this was not just gonna be a bad day, that this was war.”

“We just got our stuff packed, ready to go,” he said. “Go where, I don’t know.” He then got a message from his best friend Yoni Peritzman with a screenshot of his friend David Newman that said “If you’ve seen or heard from David, please call this number.” 

Immediately after receiving that text from Peritzman, Bodner pulled out his phone and texted Apisdorf, another one of his lifelong friends, “Has anyone found Newman?” he asked. Apisdorf responded, “He’s dead. Don’t say anything to anyone please.”

Newman had been at the Nova Music Festival in the south when sirens sounded in Israel on October 7, and sent his friends a text: “Pray for me,” then another, “Something terrible happened.” That was the last that they heard from Newman. Apisdorf and Hazony drove south, right into danger, to try and save Newman, but got stopped by the police near Sderot. Newman and his girlfriend Noam fled the Nova site and hid inside a construction garbage bin with others. At one point, Newman jumped out to check the surroundings when “not just a terrorist, but a… regular Gazan resident, shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’” and murdered him. Noam was shot in the right hip and foot, and sat there for hours until civilians found her and “drove in between terrorists and through shootings to get her to what was essentially the new border of Israel that day.” 

“David was dead by a dumpster and 13 people were killed along with him,” said Bodner.  

Waiting to hear confirmation about Newman’s fate was terrifying for him. “That night I was just staying up reading lists and trying to relieve the pressure that I was feeling in my lungs and in my brain,” said Bodner. “When you want to control the world at that moment that you don’t have what to do, it’s a horrifying experience.”  

The next day, on his way up north with his friends to their army base, Bodner got a call from Apisdorf. “We breathe for a second and he just said, ‘He’s gone,’” Bodner relayed. “Everything in my body, every cell in me, changed into a version of myself that was going to operate in this war.”

He sat his friends down and told them what he had just learned. “We are just on this porch in this place that we have spent so many Shabbosim hanging out with David and all of a sudden… you are never gonna have another moment with him.” 

Even in this immense hardship, a spark of light was lit. “On the night of the 8 I got added to a WhatsApp group titled ‘Let’s Do Something’” that Apisdorf had started. Apisdorf texted, “Our friend is dead… we have to do something.” 

That is how Soldiers Save Lives was born. When Bodner and his friends realized that the soldiers fighting against Hamas were lacking necessary items, they decided to ship them equipment, all in the memory of Newman. They signed an agreement with El Al and asked for donations in American communities. “All of a sudden we had a whole plane load, with 12 tons of equipment, flying to Israel.” 

“The flight landed 15 minutes before David’s funeral,” said Bodner.  

Bodner, who now serves as COO of Soldiers Save Lives, worked with his friends to set up a website to fundraise, formed a staff, and created a social media presence. Now, Soldiers Save Lives serves as a donation shipping organization that covers the cost to ship large amounts of equipment to soldiers in addition to ordering tactical aid for them. They also help ship supplies for refugees and hold fundraisers and events for Jewish communities in the states. 

“We will continue to do that stuff, all for the Jewish people, and all with the spirit of David,” he said. “Because [David] is not here, I have a duty, and so does my team… to do something great in the world because we lost something great.” 

The biggest challenge so far has been grappling with the fact that communities outside of Israel “feel that Israel is okay now, [but] Israel is not okay.” Bodner continued, “People need to come to Israel and meet with the people of Israel that are going through hard times.” 

As Bodner relayed his story over the phone, his profile picture of him and Newman smiling joyfully spoke louder than words, a Soldiers Save Lives logo prominently displayed in the corner of the photograph.  

The legacy behind that logo is already enduring. “If we shut down today, we have a legacy; David has a legacy,” said Bodner. “He’s our logo… his sticker is all around the world.” 

That is the exact sticker that was so prominently displayed on Mia Drazin’s computer as she walked into the Beren campus Beit Midrash one Tuesday morning. Drazin is a Yeshiva University student and volunteer for Soldiers Save Lives. She serves as a director for the organization in the US connecting them with others. As she began to tell me about her work, she texted her partners at Soldiers Save Lives on the “Let’s Do Something” chat. 

“I was in Israel on October 7 and my family… left very quickly,” said Drazin (SSSB ‘24). “I just felt very guilty that I was running away and leaving.” She continued, “I guess my response to these things is to do something.” 

When she got home from Israel, Drazin “was so frantic to help.” She saw a notice on her phone of a new organization that needed marketing help, messaged them, and was immediately put in charge of marketing for Soldiers Save Lives.“I would wake up, [and] the first thing I would do is I was looking at Soldiers Save Lives,” said Drazin.  

As marketing head, Drazin managed the team that helped create the organization’s website, social media platforms and logo. She also recruited students from Yeshiva University to volunteer with the organization, and went on Operation Torah Shield with YU, bringing about 30 duffle bags of boots for Soldiers Save Lives along with them. When she landed in Israel, she finally got to meet those from Soldiers Save Lives that she had worked closely with. 

For Drazin, the goal of Soldiers Save Lives is extremely important. “It doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are… if you want to do something you can do it,” said Drazin. “No one is too small as an individual.” 

When Bodner learned of Newman’s death, he told his friends, “We are a nation of peace. Shalom is what Israel stands for.” He continued, “When you go out into whatever is your destiny, find peace, find safety.”

Newman exemplified that statement. His full name was “David Yair Shalom Ne’eman: David will light the way to peace.”  

Bodner is very proud to be part of the community that is Soldiers Save Lives, a group of buddies he knew would be his lifelong friends. “I knew that these guys were special; I was gonna change the world with these guys,” he said. “I just wish it wasn’t because of David.” 

You can donate to Soldiers Save Lives here

Photo Caption: From left to right: Ike Bodner, David Newman, Gidon Hazony, Yoni Peritzman