Giving it a Second Thought
What goes on in the lives of IDF soldiers?
0 Comments | Thursday, March 23, 2023
Holidays for IDF Soldiers
I was driving into Jerusalem a couple of days ago and as I always do on my way into the city, like everyone else in front of my car and behind it, I passed through a security checkpoint. It isn't that noticeable of an event. You approach the checkpoint, the soldiers on guard (basically kids in their 20s) take a look at you, glance at your car, and either wave you on or ask a couple of questions.
"Where are you heading today?"
"Do you live in the area?" - things like that.
Usually the whole process takes about five or ten seconds. Sometimes there's a bit of a wait to pass through (think rush hour) and occasionally, if there’s been a security incident, it takes longer. But as I pass through, I think about how grateful I am that they‘re there, watching out for and protecting me and everyone else who is using that road.
Other things that come to mind
Something else I think about is the soldiers themselves. How on hot days, in weather that makes no human want to step foot outside, they’re standing there, weighed down with kilos of protective gear and equipment, dedicatedly doing their jobs. The same goes for frigid winter days (and nights) when the wind blows so hard and rain hits you in the face. I think about how young some of them are-that one on the right looks like he just graduated high school yesterday. And the older one with the wedding ring on the hand that’s holding his gun-does he have kids?
But I’ll admit, that used to be the extent of it. And as I passed through the checkpoint I always gave them a friendly wave and a sincere thank you, then headed on my way.
And then I started working at American Friends of Yad Eliezer/B'ezri.
And I was introduced to a whole new dimension in the lives of IDF soldiers that I hadn’t given too much thought to.
Or, more accurately, lack thereof.
I quickly learned about the issue of poverty in the IDF. Well, not in the IDF itself but in the personal lives of thousands of soldiers who serve in it.
Many needy soldiers, many stories
Soldiers in need exist in every unit and at every level of the army.
I learned first hand about soldiers who come from impoverished backgrounds-the ones that hesitate to go home when they’re given leave, because the situation there is too difficult.
I learned about the ones who have their own families, but can’t afford to buy food for them on a regular basis.
I spoke to the father of one chayal who suffers so badly from war-related injuries and PTSD that his parents spend most of their time trying to get him appropriate treatment, going into debt themselves from the costs of working to help their son.
Another soldier describes how he goes to his second job when he can get “time off”-meaning in the evenings after a long day in the army and on his "chamshush" (that's short for Chamishi, Shishi v'Shabbat - in other words, the weekend).
Yamit, the mother of another soldier, is undergoing chemo and her husband reduced his work hours so he could take care of her and their younger kids. Less work means less income and Yamit worries doubly about her chayal son: first, that he’s on the Syrian border and second, that after he travels home for hours from long, hard weeks of serving, there won’t be anything to feed him.
Yehuda B. is a chayal who lives with his grandmother. She herself is struggling, barely able to buy food and pay for utilties. He sleeps on her kitchen floor.
Other soldiers, despite having been born and raised in Israel, have become lone soldiers after their families cut off contact with them.
It’s hard to comprehend that so many men and women, who appear so strong and powerful in their work, are suffering terribly in their personal lives. But they are. And on holidays, when their peers are home, happily celebrating with their families, the soldiers who suffer during the year, do so even more.
What can be done?
There is a comfort, though, knowing that individuals and organizations are out there, providing help. American Friends of Yad Eliezer/B'ezri (a top Israeli charity) is one of them. Every Pesach and for the High Holidays, we run our IDF Holiday campaign
, which provides half a million dollars
worth of food aid for these soldiers. The tzedaka is distributed via their commanders in the form of gift cards, so a soldier can simply walk into the supermarket, fill their shopping cart and pay for everything easily. The soldiers comment that it really gives them a lift, knowing people care about them and want to help.
That help is invaluable:
The soldier that hesitated to go home to his parents for the seder can use the cards himself, bringing groceries with him when he comes through the front door.
The ones that worried about providing matza, wine and other Pesach foods for their own families, now can. The parents who want to make a nice Yom Tov with their soldier children can shop with a lighter heart.
We get countless thank you notes and messages that express what a difference the assistance makes.
“I’m proud to serve as a Givati soldier-but this year I was also proud to be able to celebrate the chag with a full table.”
“I don’t know what we would have done without your help-thank you.”
“The tlushim enabled me and my family to feel like it was really a holiday..”
The army commanders, who know their soldiers well and work with us to coordinate distribution of the gift cards to their neediest men and women also express their appreciation:
“Please pass on my thanks to your donors, for looking out for my soldiers, who work so hard to protect Israel’s citizens-you are all really bringing them relief.”
So the next time you pass through a checkpoint, sit next to a sleeping soldier on the bus, or read about about a military operation in the news, try to think about that something
you might not usually think about...
I will too.
Want to help us send Pesach support to 3,135 IDF soldiers in need? Join us!