The family was scheduled to fly back to the U.S. together the following day.
And while Nagels' wife, Yarden, and their three youngsters made it home to Teaneck, 35-year-old Nagel stayed behind to fight in an elite unit of the IDF in Gaza.
On Thursday, Nov. 16, Nagels surprised Yarden and his children at Yavneh Academy.
"I didn't sleep for days leading up to the trip," said Nagels, who has already returned to Israel to continue fighting. "I didn't tell anyone I was coming because I didn't want them to be disappointed."
But Nagel pulled it off without a hitch, and it was all caught on video.
"It was very emotional — I hadn’t seen the family for 40 days," Nagels said. "It was a beautiful moment that I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Nagels first served with Sayeret Golani, an elite unit of the Golani Brigade in 2008, when he was 18 years old. He spent 60 days in Gaza and learned the area well.
"I know the terms, I know the population," he said. "I know what to do with certain things."
He moved to the U.S. with his family 10 years ago, and has been working at Yavneh Academy and Frisch as a teacher.
His family was spending the Jewish holidays in Israel when the attack happened, and Nagels says he knew he wouldn't be coming back to New Jersey any time soon.
"I couldn't go home," he said. I had an important job to do."
This time, he returned to Sayeret Golani as an advisor, a commander, to guide the unit through the war.
Nagels had been trying to make a quick trip home to see his family. He tried three times, but each time, the plans fell through.
The fourth time around, he didn't tell anyone he was coming home. Right after his flight landed at Newark Airport, Nagels went to Yavneh Academy in Paramus.
"We had the best weekend," the soldier said. "Obviously, I ate a lot and we had such a fun time together.
"The community gave me a lot of support and power."
Nagels returned to Israel on Monday, Nov. 20, and says he's ready to go back to Gaza: "My friends and soldiers waiting for me."
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