Bonding With IDF Soldiers Over Sunflower Seeds = Amazing Shabbat!

Guest post by Tova Knecht who recently moved to Israel with her family and is using every day to experience life in Israel to its fullest potential. Tova recently hosted IDF soldiers who are in the process of converting to Judaism.
Follow her on twitter @TovaInIsrael

Bonding over Sunflower Seeds
In life there are no coincidences.
Life doesn’t just happen.
Hashem (God) guides us.
Yet, we all have a say in how we lead our lives.
Sometimes, you are placed in a life that is wonderful with a loving family but you are searching for something more.
But what?

TovahThis Shabbat we had the opportunity to be part of a very interesting process for two awesome IDF soldiers.
An entire group of Chayalim and Chayalot(Soldiers)  came to our town and were placed with families to experience a Shabbat.
These two Chayalim were born into wonderful, loving families. Part of their family is Jewish, with a long line of Jewish traditions, but their mothers aren’t which makes them not Jewish according to Jewish law. These soldiers are part of an IDF program for soldiers who are choosing to convert to Judaism.

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This weekend was designed to give them a Shabbat experience according to Jewish tradition.
They came to our home and we welcomed them.
Within a few minutes, they were playing games with our kids. (Super Goal is definitely a favorite here!)

tovah1Not only did we host IDF soldiers, we were also lucky to host 2 amazing guys who are here from the States studying in Yeshiva. Introductions were made and all 4 guys hit it off instantly!
When I lit candles, my husband and son accompanied our 4 guests to the Beit Knesset (Synagogue). My daughters and I joined a little later. The shul was full with these extraordinary IDF soldiers and their hosts, it was such an uplifting experience.

After Davening (Prayer), we returned home and ate a delicious meal (if I say so myself). The conversation was intriguing, enlightening, and very relaxed.

The kids went to sleep and the conversation continued until well after midnight, definitely past my typical Friday night bedtime, but it was well worth it.

As the sunflower seeds were consumed and the piles of shells continued to grow, true bonding occurred. One of the yeshiva guys let the soldiers know that he would like to draft into the army next year to be a Chayal Boded (Lone Soldier), he received lots of information from the soldiers and the soldiers received lots of information regarding Judaism from the Yeshiva students.

I felt like their honorary mother helping them figure things out.
Aren’t I a little young to have 20 year old sons?

The next morning all the men left to go daven (pray) and I stayed back to prepare for lunch. Once preparations were complete, my girls and I went to shul and joined the entire community in a kiddush (traditional get together) in honor of the visiting soldiers, and their hosting families.


Along with many other soldiers I met who were going through the conversion process, I connected with two very sweet soldiers from the Air Force who are also enjoying and experiencing this journey.


Having friends for Shabbat lunch to share this experience with was perfect! The kids each had a friend to hang out with while the adults enjoyed each other’s company. Seeing everyone smiling and laughing made me so happy and really enhanced our shabbat experience.

I’m not sure if it’s normal to feel this much excitement, but how can one not feel like this!

tovah3Shabbat finished with a Havdalah (traditional ceremony when Shabbat ends) in beautiful Carlebach fashion, it was so special as everyone joined together in shul.

When we said goodbye, shavua tov (have a good week), to the two soldiers we now consider family, it wasn’t really goodbye, we know we’ll see them again. Whenever they want to come for Shabbat, whenever they have a question or whenever they want a good meal, our house is open!


Before Shabbat, I was told by the Mefakedet (female commander) that the guys we were hosting are Maksim (wonderful),
now that we spent Shabbat with them, I can vouch that they really are Maksim.
I think we might have gained more from this Shabbat than the soldiers did!


When you are born into a life that you are given, it is easy to forget to appreciate it.
It’s easy to take things for granted, but let me tell you (if you’re still reading this), after seeing their eyes light up with excitement for Judaism, it reminded me how lucky I am to have been born into this amazing religion and it reminded me not take it for granted.
Let’s also remember to thank IDF soldiers for all they do to protect us in Israel.
When you see Chayalim and Chayalot on the street, say Thank You. They really do appreciate it!

When I asked my children how they enjoyed shabbat, they held out their thumbs up and yelled out.. AMAZING!!

If you ever want to bond with someone, open a bag of sunflower seeds! You might be surprised how people will come out of their shells as they open of the shells up the sunflower seeds.

Tova Knecht made Aliyah with her husband and kids and they’re using every day to experience life in Israel to its fullest potential. You can follow Tova–> @TovaInIsrael

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