The first time I told someone about American Friends of Yad Eliezer's Holiday Program for IDF Soldiers, they looked at me, confused. "What does the program do?"
"It's an incredible program that helps poor soldiers with money for yom tov expenses--so they can buy food for the Chagim and for Pesach", I answered. "With donor support we raise $250,000 dollars in aid-which gets matched to $500,000 - and distribute it to thousands of soldiers as gift cards. They use them at the supermarket so they can choose and buy whatever they need-it's really a lifesaver for their holidays. This year we're campaigning to help 3,000 chayalim for Pesach."
She stopped, thought for a second and asked,
"There are poor soldiers?"
Name: Moshe S.
Officially Moshe is classified as a chayal boded - a lone soldier. But he was actually born in Israel and lives in a neighborhood not that far from his parents. The situation in Moshe’s home, though, was unstable growing up, with significant dysfunction due to mental illness and substance abuse playing a large part in his childhood. Moshe somehow managed to get by up through his teen years with limited help and support through social services, but it was a life of uncertainty, fear and poverty. So when he became of age, he joined the army knowing that for a few years at least, he would have some form of stability and consistency-things he never had. Moshe’s parents are not in the picture at all and with no relatives to turn to, he truly is alone. He is on his own to support himself and often stays on base even for Shabbat and holidays because on base at least, there is always food.
Name: Ezra B.
Ezra has never known what it’s like to live in a calm home, one without illness. For as long as he can remember, his father, who has cancer, has suffered. Hospital appointments, phone calls to the doctor, debilitating chemo and radiation treatments, a mother trying to hold herself and her family together…this is the life Ezra has known. It’s been a life of always living on the edge, holding his breath, praying for the best but never really knowing any peace of mind from one day to the next. Medical bills have accumulated dangerously over the years. And with Ezra’s father being too ill for too long to hold down a steady job, and his mother doing her best to take care of him plus the two other children in the home, she too hasn’t been able to work consistently. Little income plus major bills equal terrible need in Ezra’s house. Poverty only adds to the emotional strain his family is all too familiar with.
Moshe and Ezra’s stories are just two stories of two struggling IDF soldiers. But there are thousands more.
They come from every kind of community: Sfardi, Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, Yemenite, Anglo and others.
They come from all walks of life: Religious, traditional, secular.
They are lone soldiers from all over the world who are trying to make it in Israel without any family. They are Israeli-born soldiers like Moshe who are estranged from their families. And they are soldiers with families of their own, who, despite their best efforts, can’t provide for their children.
They are soldiers who’ve been raised in two parent, poverty-stricken homes their whole lives. They are soldiers like Ezra living with a parent battling illness. And they are soldiers who’ve grown up with no parents in the picture at all.
Each one’s details are a bit different from the next, yet they have one characteristic in common: they’re suffering terribly. You may not read about them in the news or on social media but these men (and women) are there, just trying to get by day after day.
We can’t help them with all they’re going through, but as a leading charity for Israel's poorest citizens, we can do something-one important thing; make Pesach more enjoyable, more “celebratable”, for them and their families.
We can bring them a feeling of freedom at least for this Zman Cheiruteinu.
To help soldiers in need, just like Moshe and Ezra, please donate to our Holiday Program for IDF Soldiers.