New Yorker Noy Leyb was watching images of Hamas terrorists infiltrating Israel in his Upper East Side apartment on Saturday when he decided to ship off to the Middle East and volunteer to serve with his elite unit in the Israel Defense Forces unit.
“No one is expecting me to come – my commanders even said there’s no expectation since I’m not in the country,” Leyb told The Post. “For me, there’s no question. My heart is in Israel. There’s no chance anything would stop me from coming back.”
As co-founder and COO of startup BachPlace – a smart booking platform for group trips – Leyb hurriedly had to cancel meetings and get-togethers and “living my normal American life.” But he didn’t give the decision a second thought.
“That’s on hold – for now, and who knows for how long,” Leyb, 32, said about his career and personal life. “Maybe a day, a week or months from now. I’m leaving here on a one-way ticket, not sure when I’m coming back.”
He spent the early part of Saturday trying to book the first flight to the Jewish homeland and secured the midnight flight.
“I was yelling at the ticket agent, why she couldn’t get me an earlier flight,” he said. “I don’t even know what I packed or what I’m going with, but I just need myself and that’s it.”
Upon arrival, the reservist who first enlisted in the IDF in 2009 at age 18, is bracing himself for a battle.
“This isn’t an operation – I fully expect to go to war,” he said.
Leyb called the IDF “the most moral army in the world,” describing how the armed forces “literally warn terrorists that we’re coming and tell them to move before we neutralize a threat.”
“We value the wives of women and children and innocent civilians,” he said, noting that Israeli soldiers bring terrorists to the hospital for treatment, and drawing a contrast with Hamas, which “puts rockets under schools, and use women and children as human shields.”
The brutal nature of Saturday’s surprise attack, “the savagery, the inhumanity – it’s like we’re in a dream,” he said of the images, including kidnappings, bodies of young and old paraded for sport.
“This is what you see in the craziest action movies. But it’s happening right now.”
He’s not naive about the danger that lies ahead, but he’s unwavering in his determination to face it: “I’m not going to lie, I am scared. I am nervous.”
In the final moments before his flight into the unknown, Leyb, voice cracking, said that he rounded up his Star of David necklace, yarmulke, and prayer book for the trip. He called his parents, said a prayer, and “enjoyed the last moments of civilization.”