Sam Friedman was called up as a reservist in the 2006 Lebanon War. Friedman, now a resident of Pikesville, recalled that his unit did not have the equipment that was needed to mobilize quickly for what became a 34-day conflict with Hezbollah.
“When it comes to army reserves and logistics, it’s not always so easy to provide life-saving materials fast,” said Friedman, 42, who is a partner at Suridata, an Israeli cybersecurity firm.
During the Lebanon War, he contacted “friends in America and found places that could get me equipment quickly,” Friedman said. “They were shipping things to me in Israel.”
Seventeen years later, Friedman is still procuring equipment — this time for the approximately 360,000 Israeli military reservists who have been called up to fight a war provoked by a deadly Hamas attack on Oct. 7.
An estimated 1,400 people were killed and 200 taken hostage by Hamas during its attack. According to the Hamas-run health ministry, more than 5,000 Palestinians have lost their lives as the conflict intensifies in Gaza.
“Securing supplies started as a personal need at one point in time. Now it is a passion project,” said Friedman, a Baltimore native who made aliyah at 19.
Friedman formed a nonprofit organization, called The Friends of the Reserves, to keep the equipment flowing. Local synagogues have held fundraisers for the organization, and support has come from the global Jewish community.
“I’ve been contacted by people from all over the world with loved ones who are soldiers,” Friedman said.
The need is more urgent than ever, he added.
“We haven’t had a scenario like this, that it was this much going on that quickly, that we needed to work this hard,” he said.
The funds raised since the Lebanon War were well invested, Friedman said. Now, the interest from the contributions are being used for supplies. Friedman said he tries as much as possible to procure from Israeli distributors, not only to assure defense ministry compliance, but also to support the Israeli economy.
“We’re not talking about the standing army. I only deal with the reservists. Think about the difficulty that the army would run into trying to draft that quickly, a few hundred thousand soldiers,” Friedman said.
“Even if they have all the equipment, the speed that they need those soldiers to get down to the battles is faster than they’re going to be able to mobilize,” he continued. “It puts us in a situation where, if that’s the equipment we’re missing and there’s a way I can help, then I’m going to help them.”
Friedman said whatever the military doesn’t have access to in Israel, he can find here. “I can source it, buy it and ship it,” he said.
The American manufacturers of equipment “are going above and beyond,” Friedman said. “They are shipping before they get paid. A lot of them are not Jewish and they’re still willing to help.”
His wife, Einat, who is from Israel, is involved in the organization’s work as well. “It’s just the two of us running it,” Friedman said.
Friedman studied counterterrorism and homeland security at Reichman University in Herzliya, Israel, after completing his compulsory military service in Israel.
Einat Friedman was an officer in the Israel Defense Forces and a lawyer.
The couple moved to Baltimore eight years ago when Friedman’s former cybersecurity company opened a U.S. branch.
They have four children and belong to the Chabad Israeli Center of Baltimore and Beth Tfiloh Congregation. The children attend Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.
The family plans to move back to Israel at some point in the future.
Sam Friedman is a descendant of Holocaust survivors, a motivating force in his decision to make aliyah and serve in the IDF.
“My grandparents were in a place that they didn’t have a way to defend themselves,” he said. “It’s my obligation and privilege, as a grandson of Holocaust survivors, to protect the Jewish nation. Without a strong standing Israeli army, the Jews aren’t going to be safe anywhere in the world.”
Friedman said he has friends and family members who were called up from the reserves, and two men he served with were both killed on the first day of the war.
“It’s not the first time I’ve gone through that,” he noted. “I’ve lost friends in pretty much every battle.”
Recently, Friedman sent over 25 handheld radios for one of the army’s reconnaissance reservist teams. He also shipped 125 bulletproof vests to an emergency response team.
“It wasn’t something that the army couldn’t provide,” he said. “They just needed them quickly and I had access. I bought them and sent it to them so they had it the same day.”
His wife’s family lives in the lower Galilee where Lebanon’s Hezbollah has joined the fighting.
“My family is tough,” he said. “They’re not going anywhere. They’re going to stand their ground.”
What’s next for The Friends of the Reserves? “To keep going, keep supplying, keep doing whatever they need me to do, whatever they need,” Friedman said.