When Meir Dunner hung up his Israeli Defense Forces uniform after finishing service a few months ago, he had no clue just how soon he would be putting it back on. But then came Oct. 7 and overnight everything changed.
For his dad, this recent turn of events has evoked a rollercoaster of emotions—stress, fear, heartbreak, horror and pride.
“We knew he was certainly going to be called up because he’s only recently been trained as a combat soldier, so that added a whole new layer of anxiety and distress to an already stressful situation,” said Pini. “I’m very fearful for his safety, but at the same time, we as parents are extremely proud of him for having made this choice.
“We feel that it’s a testament to his incredible character.”
For Meir, who is currently in training for a possible ground invasion, there is one overpowering emotion: anger.
“They (Hamas) murdered so many people, murdered in cold blood. The attack wasn’t against any military, it was against civilians,” he said. “I’m very angry. How could this happen?”
Fear, however, doesn’t factor into the equation.
“I’ve got too much pride for that,” he said. “I would run head-on to the frontlines. That’s how I feel about this place. It’s worth fighting for.”
Meir originally hails from London but moved to Beverly Hills with his family in 2011 when his father became Rabbi of Beverly Hills Synagogue. After graduating from high school, he decided to forgo the traditional path of spending a year in a yeshiva in Israel and instead enlisted in the IDF.
During his time in the military Meir developed a fierce love for the country of Israel and its people.
“Words don’t really do this place justice,” he said. “All I can say is if you haven’t been, definitely come and experience it for yourself.”
Though well aware of the dangers of entering combat, Meir jumped at the opportunity to defend the Israeli state and support the IDF. He has also worked with his father to organize a supply drive that has sent droves of warm socks, jackets and other supplies from Beverly Hills to soldiers in Israel.
Pini said he was blown away by the community response to his call for donations noting that Jews, church leaders and gentile residents alike came together to gather supplies.
“What started off as a sort of very local, very parochial drive for a few duffle bags to send to my son’s unit suddenly mushroomed into this huge drive that resulted in hundreds and hundreds of boxes and cases and duffle bags being sent on a cargo plane to Israel,” said Pini. “That’s been very heartwarming.”
Meir said the supplies have been sincerely appreciated in the field, especially by soldiers in colder northern outposts where temperatures drop precipitously at night.
“It’s freezing in the north at night and these people were asking me ‘Do you have any jackets?’ and the smiles on their faces when we said yes really warmed my heart and made me know I’m making a difference,” said Meir.
Seeing the enthusiastic local response to the call for donations made Meir feel proud to be part of the Beverly Hills community, he said.
But while the local community has been a source of solace, both Pini and Meir said they have been frustrated by the broader national response to the war and fearful for the safety of Jews across the world.
“People are entitled to their views as to what they feel towards there being a Jewish state and there not being a Palestinian state, but the fact that this somehow creates a cause for justification for brutality and terrorism, seems to me completely and utterly inexplicable,” said Pini. “It makes you feel very unsafe.”
In these dark times, the Dunners are turning to family, community and prayer for support.
Meir said he speaks to his family often and seeks to reassure them with jokes and a positive attitude. Still, nothing can hide the fact that he is in a near-constant state of danger.
“Everyone here is in danger. One second to the next something can just break out,” he said. “I’ve had bullets fly past my head before. It’s not the first thing that really worries me.
“What worries me is how my family will suffer if something happens to me.”