In 1982, during Operation Peace in the Galilee, the IDF invaded Lebanon and entered the small town of Bamachmadon. During a patrol, one soldier, Baruch Marzel (today a community activist in the Judean territories) entered a store and was surprised when he heard the store owner recite “Shma Yisrael.” The storekeeper, Eli Luzia, was one of the few remaining Jews in Lebanon. A warm relationship quickly developed between the Luzias and the IDF soldiers. As the Luzia’s son Tzion was nearly thirteen, the soldiers convinced his parents to bring him to Israel to celebrate his upcoming Bar Mitzva, and helped them make all the necessary arrangements.
At the same time, Chabad Chassidim took advantage of the IDF invasion to come to Lebanon and seek out all the Jewish families they could find. When they encountered the Luzia family, they were struck by the warm Jewish atmosphere in the home. They snapped a picture of Mr. Eli Luzia while wrapped in his tallis and tefillin, davening the morning prayers. The Chabadniks strongly befriended the Luzias and offered to help them in any way possible, physically or spiritually. The first request of the Luzias was to repair the local mikva, which the Chabadniks did with alacrity. They also printed a Tanya in Lebanon, which they presented to the Luzias as a gift.
When it was time for Tzion’s Bar-Mitzva, the family made arrangements for a brief visit to Israel. They planned to spend the month of Tishrei in Israel, when the Bar Mitzva would take place, and return to Lebanon after the holidays. An IDF Jeep drove them to the Lebanese-Israeli border and despite difficulties, the Luzias managed to cross the border for their first visit to Israel.
The Luzias celebrated their son’s Bar Mitzva together with the families of the soldiers as well as the Chabadniks whom they had befriended in Lebanon. The Chabadniks informed them that they had written a report to the Rebbe all about their visit to the Luzia home, and included the picture of Eli praying Shacharis. The Rebbe expressed great interest in the family, and sent them tickets to spend the holiday of Sukkos with the Rebbe in New York.
It was not easy for the Luzias, as Lebanese citizens, to obtain visas to enter the United States. However, the Chabadniks persevered until they managed to make all the arrangements. The Luzias arrived in New York on Erev Sukkos and were greatly inspired by the entire Tishrei atmosphere in 770, especially by the Rebbe’s presence.
The highlight of their trip came on Hoshana Rabba, when they had the opportunity to pass by the Rebbe and receive the traditional piece of honey cake. When the Luzias’ turn came, Eli presented the Rebbe with a gift – a double sided silver kiddush cup. The Rebbe inspected the gift from all sides, thanked them, and then gave them a piece of honey cake on behalf of the Lebanese Jewish community.
The Rebbe then began to shower the couple with many blessings. The Rebbe spoke in French, the language that Mrs. Aliza Luzia was most fluent in. When the Rebbe finished speaking, Eli informed the Rebbe that they planned on returning to Lebanon after Simchas Torah, and requested the Rebbe’s blessing. The Luzias were stunned when the Rebbe cut him off in middle of his speech, and told him sharply not to return to Lebanon. Their home, their possessions, and their business were all in Lebanon. They had left planning to be away only for a short time, and were in no way prepared to suddenly abandon all their worldly belongings. Eli asked the Rebbe if it would be possible to return home for a short time just to settle their accounts, and sell their home and business. The Rebbe again repeated sharply that they should not return to Lebanon at all, even for a short time. The Rebbe then resumed blessing them, promising that all would be good and go easily for them.
For the Luzias, being told to leave Lebanon was a very difficult pill to swallow. Says Aliza: “This was the first test of faith that we had to withstand as adherents of the Rebbe. It was like hearing news of a fire that destroyed all our possessions. We felt suddenly bereft of everything, homeless and penniless. It was a tremendous test. Yet, at that moment, I knew in my heart that we would do just as the Rebbe told us.”
At that time, Aliza had been experiencing various health-related problems, and the doctors had recommended that she undergo a hysterectomy. They asked the Rebbe’s opinion, and the Rebbe advised them against doing the surgery. Turning to Aliza with a smile, the Rebbe said: “You will yet bear another child!” Aliza was amazed. She and her husband were middle-aged, and their youngest child was a boy of thirteen. Over the years she had dreamed of having another child, a girl, but at this point it did not seem realistic at all.
After a few days they returned to Israel, and started their lives over from scratch. One week later, to their horror, they heard that their town in Lebanon had been overrun by terrorists, who slaughtered the entire non-Muslim population in cold blood. The blood-bath took place only three days after the date they had planned to return to Lebanon. They saw very clearly how the Rebbe had literally saved their lives, and liberally showered them with blessings in order to cushion the “blow."
However, the Rebbe’s miracles had still not ended. Several months later, Aliza discovered that she was expecting. The doctors attempted to dissuade her from trying to complete a pregnancy at her age, warning her of all sorts of complications. The Luzias ignored the admonitions of the doctors. Eight months later, and ten months after their meeting with the Rebbe, Aliza gave birth to a healthy daughter, whom they named Rus. Rus is now eighteen years old, an endless source of nachas to her parents and a living reminder of their encounter with the Rebbe.