Shalom Life | August 01, 2014

American Groups Give Back to IDF's Lone Soldiers

Friends of Israel Defense Forces and other groups unite to support non-Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza

By: Daniel Koren

Published: July 30th, 2014 in News » Israel

Tens of thousands of reservists were called in to help support the State of Israel in the days leading up to Operation Protective Edge.

Now in Day 23 of the military offensive, we've seen over 50 Israeli soldiers die, and we've wept and prayed for them and their families as we wait for this ordeal to be over.

But it's more than worth noting that many of these soldiers, while fighting for Israel, do it voluntarily, with Israel either being their adopted homeland, or a symbol of freedom and democracy they wish to uphold.

As the IDF calls them, these are "lone" soldiers, meaning they're parents are not in the State of Israel.

Fallen American soldiers Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg were two such individuals, holding both American and Israeli citizenship's. Had they wanted to, they could have left Israel to return to the U.S., but chose to stay in their adopted homeland and fight for their country, and for the people of Israel.

Respectively, with 20,000 and 30,000 Israelis arriving for their funerals, the residents of Israel acknowledge that they will forever be indebted to these lone soldiers for their service to the country.

Over in the United States, Jewish groups also recognize the patriotic duties of lone soldiers. Currently in the IDF, there are 2,500 lone soldiers, 740 of which are American, claims the New York-based Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). Many of them arrive in Israel with no prior connections, no money, and no knowledge of the language.

The FIDF have made it their mission for these soldiers to know that they are certainly not alone.

“They are coming because of their sense of responsibility. They understand where we came from and where we stand today,” said Major General Yitzhak “Jerry” Gershon, who serves as National Director and CEO of FIDF. “They understand the importance of the State of Israel, not just for Jews but for the free world. We are fighting radical movements who seek to destroy.”

In a bid to help and support these soldiers, the FIDF - with 15 chapters in the United States - are doing everything they can, offering support networks, flights back home to visit family and friends, as well as social networks where they can meet new people. They also send care packages and provide educational opportunities and counseling, reports the Times of Israel.

“It’s FIDF’s vision to connect people to people, to support the kids in uniform. We are standing together for the soldiers during the campaign and after the campaign,” said Gershon. “These brave soldiers are pioneers connecting communities around the world. We have a slogan: ‘Watch us, we watch them.’”

“I see what we are doing here and this is another front,” he continued. “We have a saying – their job is to look after Israel, our job is to look after them.”

The FIDF also connect lone soldiers with other Israeli families who are happy to open their homes to them, establishing a sense of solidarity, of unity, and of pride.

The New York-based group isn't the only Jewish organization looking out for Israel's lone soldiers. The Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers (AWIS) - based out of Jerusalem - has initiated an "Adopt-A-Battalion" program that connects Israeli companies with IDF soldiers.

“First of all we are contributing to the welfare and wellbeing of the Israeli soldier, especially in these times,” said President and CEO of AWIS, Ilan Tal. “We want to show how much we appreciate what they [the soldiers] are doing. It has nothing to do with political views – you can have leftist views and rightest views. But the soldier in the center is the child of all of us.”

Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, AWIS has raised NIS 10 million ($3 million US) for members of the IDF, with donations coming from around the world.

The money is used to provide goods for IDF soldiers that are detrimental to their well-being. Also, it greatly boosts morale.

“Even if those packages aren’t exactly what the soldier needs, they often include photos and a letter,” Tal said. “It’s heart warming to see.”

It's Easier to be in Israel Than to Watch it From Afar It's Easier to be in Israel Than to Watch it From Afar Trending Ex-Hasidic Jew Has “Divine Intervention” Over Sexy Photos Trending Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Other Spanish Celebrities Call Israeli Operation "Genocide" Trending
 

Israel's Farmigo App Lets You Buy Food Straight from Local Farmers

August 01, 2014 | By Dyana So, NoCamels

Farmigo is more than just another eco-friendly startup embracing technology to improve lifestyles

Read More

New Israeli Study Links Alzheimer's to Brain Hyperactivity

August 01, 2014 | By Viva Sarah Press
New Israeli Study Links Alzheimer's to Brain Hyperactivity

Research offers the potential for restoring memory and protecting the brain of patients with this debilitating disease

Read More

How Humanitarian Pressure Helped Create Israel’s Terror Tunnel Problem

August 01, 2014 | By Josh Hasten

Experts claim that pressure was mounting on Israel to transfer building materials, which, in a way, helped Hamas' efforts

Read More

US: Release Abducted Soldier

August 01, 2014 | By Ynet News
US: Release Abducted Soldier

Kerry speaks with Netanyahu, White House slams Hamas attack as 'barbaric' violation of ceasefire

Read More

The Top Ten Leonard Cohen Songs

August 01, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau
The Top Ten Leonard Cohen Songs

A look at some of the most poetic, and beautiful, songs written by the iconic singer/songwriter

Read More

NBA’s Omri Casspi Brings Basketballs to Israeli Troops

July 31, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
NBA’s Omri Casspi Brings Basketballs to Israeli Troops

The Sacramento Kings player, currently in Israel, decided to visit soldiers.

Read More

Joan Rivers Defends Israel Again, Blames Pro-Gaza Opinions On Bad PR [VIDEO]

July 31, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Joan Rivers Defends Israel Again, Blames Pro-Gaza Opinions On Bad PR [VIDEO]

The comedian joins Israel's Channel 10 to share her opinions on the current conflict

Read More

Dianna Agron Stars in New Sam Smith Music Video

July 31, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Dianna Agron Stars in New Sam Smith Music Video

The 'Glee' actress appears alongside 'The Mindy Project's' Chris Messina

Read More

More Headlines