By: Ari Fuld
Whenever I travel to the States to speak about Israel or talk about my personal experience in the IDF, I often hear people tell me they wish they would have drafted into the IDF when they were younger. My response is always a warm smile and a “It’s ok, we all do what we can”.
This past Monday I interviewed a man who took his desire to draft into the IDF to a whole new level.
I met Michael Rollhaus, a 57 year old furniture company owner and an addicted stair climber, in a Jerusalem cafe to hear about his latest campaign to support the IDF.
While Michael is in pretty good shape and has “legs of steel” by his own admission, he was not actually looking to put on a uniform, but rather to support the IDF in what I consider to be one of the most unique campaigns I have ever been involved with.
Michael Rollhaus is a professional stair climber and last week he decided to climb all 147 floors of the three Azrielli towers in Tel Aviv to raise money to supply 3,000 IDF soldiers with operational winter gear.
Michael’s love for the IDF is inspirational, but I had to know how and why he got into stair climbing. Michael explained that when he was younger he started going to the gym and found that the StairMaster machine was always empty. “The first time I got on the StairMaster, I was huffing and puffing. There is never a line for the StairMaster machine because it’s such a hard machine. There’s no cheating on that machine; you’re going up those steps and that’s it.” Explained Michael, “One day I was walking in Manhattan and I saw an advertisement for a stair-climbing competition in the Rockefeller Center – it was called ‘TOP OF THE ROCK’ and I decided to go for it.” Michael explained that the feeling of accomplishment when reaching the top of any building is awesome and he figured he might as well use his talent to help support the men and women of the IDF.
Michael’s father emigrated from Germany, joined the US Armed Forces, and fought in WWII. When Michael talks about his father his facial expression is one of awe and inspiration, as he recalls the stories he heard from his father and others about the time his father was in the military. After emotionally describing how his father must have felt while at war and not knowing if he would ever return, Michael tries to finish the next sentence but seems unable to find the words . . “Helping soldiers is something …..” No words come out but it is clear that supporting the IDF is something that runs very deep in Michael’s soul.
Michael explained that while he was waiting with the other climbers for the start of the race, one of the other contestants noticed Michael’s Standing Together shirt and asked, “What is that for?” Michael smiled and answered, “To get gear for the soldiers – that they shouldn’t think they are alone and forgotten.” The Israeli contestant smiled at Michael and said, “That is so good, because when I was a Chayal (soldier) I felt like I was a forgotten person.”
Michael wants every IDF soldier to know that people around the world are thinking of them and are supporting them and NEVER should any one of them feel like they are a “forgotten person”.
Michael made it up all three towers and although he was a little disappointed in his time (he was 50 seconds slower than the last time he climbed Azrielli), he left one very clear and strong message for soldiers, “Thank you for protecting us and Israel!”