Under a clear night sky with the moon and stars shining brightly, a Bar Mitzvah boy was smiling. Matthew’s family flew from Florida to Israel to celebrate his Simcha. They chose to spend their time and special occasion on an army base in the Gush with the brave Chayalim of the IDF.
The celebration would include a hot delicious barbecue with beef hotdogs, not the chicken kind! It would include singing, dancing, and laughter. Matthew’s smile was ear to ear when he was lifted on a chair by 20 soldiers. It doesn’t get better than that!His family brought cards for them that were written by their classmates and friends. That’s when the faces of the Chayalim were glowing. You see, as a mom, teacher, and camp director, I’ve had the opportunity to compile many cards for Chayalim. But I never witnessed what I did last night. I didn’t think it would actually mean so much to them. But it really, truly, wholeheartedly does! They were beaming with happiness and exchanging the cards to show each other the ones they received. Pure perfect joy. And tears of happiness welled up in my eyes.
So how did I end up on an army base in the Gush one night? It seems incredulous. Actually the last few months seem like a dream. Since moving to Israel and writing this blog, TovaInIsrael, so many opportunities have opened in front of me. I’m truly honored and to say excited is an understatement.
Ari Fuld of Standing Together invited me to join the Beim and Kahan families and witness firsthand the enormity of what they try to accomplish. Standing Together is a non-profit organization dedicated to making a difference to those who make a difference in Israel. This includes supporting Israeli soldiers on active duty and giving the worldwide community an opportunity to show their appreciation to those who protect Israel, the Chayalim. Their motto is “Supporting IDF soldiers with whatever they need, wherever they are.” Through monetary donations and support, Standing Together provides the many necessities that the soldiers need on a daily and seasonal basis. During the cold months, it is especially critical to ensure the soldiers are protected from the freezing temperatures. Soldiers receive warm insulated gloves and masks. All army regulated. What a zechut for the families to show their appreciation and in return have the opportunity to witness the gratitude the Chayalim have for them.
I rode with the families, driven by Eli, their driver. He gave the kids an exceptionally funny tour through the dark night. I’m not sure if they actually believe it was a green pasture or a shark pool alongside the highway! The kids were thrilled to tell me all about their favorite Israeli foods (olives and pizza) and the most exciting trips they had up till that point (Jeeping! By far!).
When we arrived, Ari Fuld greeted us and gave some background into what would happen. The Barbeque was ready and the kids jumped inside the trailer to get things moving. The Chayalim greeted everyone and conversations took off- surprisingly so many in English! There were chayalim there that were from all over the world, serving in the IDF as lone soldiers. Kol HaKavod to them for leaving their families for the sake of protecting the Jewish homeland. I discovered that I know one of the soldier’s sisters who lives in New York. Talk about a small world!The Chayalim in Intelligence brought me inside their headquarters and tried to locate my apartment on their computer systems! What I was even more excited about was that they were so impressed with my Hebrew! Only 6 months here, without formal Ulpan, and I’m picking up the language and accent really nicely!
Thank you so much to the Beim and Kahan families, for having me partake in this amazing experience. Your children are all delights with beautiful middot. And I’m looking forward to hosting your daughter for any Shabbat she needs while studying in Israel.
If anyone wants to partake in an experience like this or donate, contact Ari Fuld by going to the website http://www.stogether.org, http://www.stogether.org/winter-gear-2015, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stogether.
Ari Fuld is going to the States and holding parlor meetings, IDF events, and speaking engagements. If anyone wants to help or host one they can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And then you, too, will have the zechut of seeing the smiling faces of Chayalei Yisrael!