As I hit the halfway mark on my flight home from a 2-week speaking and fund-raising tour in the U.S., I had a strong desire to put my thoughts into words.
In my heart and mind my message was as clear as it possibly could be, but I was unsure if I would be able to convey what I am trying to say to those who have never served or felt the pain or struggle of those who have paid the ultimate price for defending Israel.
Can I put my thoughts into words? I hope so.
I spent the last two weeks speaking to individuals, communities, university students and friends about my personal experiences in the IDF as well as about the challenges we face in Israel . It’s not that my IDF experience is special or different than thousands of others, I just use my personal experience to try and describe to others what it’s like for IDF soldiers who often face life and death situations and then go back home and try to have life continue as usual.
Whenever I get up to speak, I always mention Yehoshua Friedberg Hy’d. I had the honor to serve with Yehoshua and it was we, his IDF team, who found him, lifeless, 23 years ago. Yehoshua was brutally murdered by terrorists 23 years ago and for his friends and especially for his family, the pain never subsides.
I also speak about the Second Lebanon War where I had my own close call and hope that I am expressing myself in a way that the people listening can grasp, even in the slightest way, the sacrifice the men and women of the IDF are constantly making to do what has to be done to protect Israel.
The funny thing is, if you start saying thank you to soldiers, they will often give you an uneasy, uncomfortable look as if to say, ‘why are you thanking me?’
It is not that we don’t feel that what we are doing is of the upmost importance, I just don’t think there is a soldier out there who feels that he is serving to receive a pat on the back. On a personal level, I often feel guilty when people say thank you since the real ones to be thanked are not here to receive the respect they so deserved.
On the one hand I want those who are not here to really understand what it is like for the soldiers and their families and on the other hand I am not sure if it is possible for them to fully grasp the physical, emotional and spiritual challenges facing IDF soldiers. The reason soldiers give you an uneasy look when you thank them is because in our eyes, we are making sure never again means NEVER AGAIN.
When it comes to the families of 18 year olds that draft for their mandatory service, worry, fear, happiness, pride and concern are just a few ‘new family members’ that are constantly looming over every second of the day. They disappear on the weekends when a soldier returns home for Shabbat and then they arrive again on Sunday when a soldier leaves his family again.
This emotional roller coaster lasts till the sons and daughters of the IDF are finished with their service and return home for good.
When it comes to reserve soldiers, I think things get a bit more intense. Every year I, like thousands of others, leave my family and spend anywhere from 2 weeks to a month in the IDF.
Whether it is the grueling training exercises or the often dangerous operations, the dual life active IDF reservists live is something that is very difficult to explain. One day he or she is going to the movies with the family and the next day they are in uniform, fully armed and walking into harm’s way.
Leaving the family is always hard and when it is for Kav (operations), there’s always that ‘never discussed’ thought in the back of the mind of what if……
It is not discussed not because of fear, but rather because it is a non-issue.
We are all aware of the of dangers that come along with the “job”, but it’s not our own safety that we are concerned with.
The Other (REAL) Heroes
I am very fortunate. In addition to my yearly call to IDF reserves, I am also part of Efrat’s military security team. The combat vest, uniform and weapon are in the corner, always at the ready. The walkie-talkie is always charged and waiting for the call that we hope won’t come in but know it will and when the walkie-talkie screams in the middle of the night or during the holidays or even on Shabbat, it is my wife who is woken up and who always keeps calm, often calmer than me. I cannot imagine what would be if my wife and entire family would not be so ‘cool’ about my army service.
I know it’s gotta be hard but NEVER, not once has my wife even hinted or requested that maybe it’s time for me to stop.
I think she, like so many other wives of active IDF reservists, knows that putting on that uniform and serving is simply part of who we are.
The vacations that were planned and had to be cancelled because you received your draft notice or your final university exam that you will not be taking due to the draft you received, or your son’s little league games…
The constant glancing at the watch to make sure you call home at 7:30 so that you can say good night to your youngest and let every one know you will see them soon or the call at some random time explaining that you were not able to call in the morning but cannot explain why.
There are so many examples of things people take for granted that IDF soldiers are missing while they are in uniform.
Don’t misunderstand my observations as complaints, not even for one second!
It is our honor to be able to wear the IDF uniform and be part of the protection of Israel and Jews.
Everything Israel, Everything IDF
For those of you who have been following me, you know how emotional I get when speaking about Israel and about the IDF. Thank God I am fortunate to run an amazing organization called Standing Together that allows me to constantly be involved with two of the things I love most (right after my family of course) –
Israel and IDF soldiers.
Working for Standing Together is not a job, it is a mission and it is very personal.
If I do not raise the money needed to reach the amount of soldiers I planned to reach, I do not sleep. I am not worried about my job, I am worried about the soldiers who, for lack of sponsors, I will not be able to reach.
I have been on both the receiving end as well as on the giving side and I know how much this kind of support means to soldiers and how much it affects our lives and our service. Besides the food, clothing and personal gear, Standing Together offers something much bigger to soldiers. We give them the knowledge that people from around the world support, love and pray for them.
The international press is constantly bashing Israel and has called us, IDF soldiers, all kinds of names. There are unfortunately even some of our own who have made horrific charges against us and it is the love and support that we receive from so many around the world that simply erase those who love to hate.
This trip was all about winter. We have 4 campaigns designed to make the lives of IDF soldiers just a bit easier and let them know how much love and support they have from all around the world. I am always wondering what is the best way to convey the difference our support campaign makes on the lives of thousands of IDF soldiers. It really is not just about money, it is about letting the men and women of the IDF know they have a family that cares for them more than they know.
What Can YOU Do?
Standing Together’s Annual IDF Winter Project
Standing Together recently received clearance from the IDF to provide Border Patrol soldiers with winter gear. Our winter-gear packs are specially designed to keep soldiers warm and dry even under the most extreme winter conditions without sacrificing their level of efficiency. The Standing Together winter pack includes a waterproof fleece jacket, ski mask, long johns, fleece hat and operational gloves with a trigger finger release.
Standing Together IDF Coffee Project
There are thousands of active soldiers who are patrolling and running operations in the Gush Etzion area. There is a cafe/restaurant called English Cake that is situated on the patrol route and soldiers often use their down time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee and some freshly baked cakes or sandwiches. Standing Together started a project 2 years ago called Coffee4IDF and together, with hundreds of sponsors from around the world, we allow IDF soldiers who are on duty to eat and drink at no charge.
It is our way of saying thank you for all they do. Each month there are over 1000 soldiers who stop in to relax and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a bit to eat. Each time a soldier comes in they receive a letter from someone who sponsored Coffee4IDF.
The monthly cost is $5,000 and we have so far covered the months till the end of 2016.
We are looking for partners who would like to join our efforts and would like to sponsor a month or even a single cup.
CLICK ON ANY OF THE COFFEE OPTIONS BELOW
Standing Together IDF Warm Up Campaign
The Standing Together truck can be seen across the country bringing warm snacks, BBQs, warm gear and other tokens of appreciation to IDF soldiers. Whether it is our ice cream surprise or our hot burekas or our legendary BBQs, when soldiers see our truck, it reminds them of the love and support they have from all around the world.
The cost to reach a single platoon with food, drinks and other treats, (100 -120 soldiers) is $1000.
In a daily run (5:00 am – 11:00 pm) we reach anywhere between 1000 – 1,500 soldiers.
The Standing Together truck reaches soldiers as they are hard in training to put smiles on their faces and simply say THANK YOU!
New Standing Together IDF Truck
The Standing Together jeep and trailer have been on the road for over 15 years! We have reached tens of thousands of soldiers with it and it’s time to upgrade. The new truck will have a built-in grill, freezer, refrigerator, coffee machine, phone chargers, popcorn machine, toaster, microwave oven, built-in pizza oven and a huge generator that will allow us to reach soldiers in the most remote areas. The cost of the new truck on the road is $180,000. We have raised up till now $20,000 and with your help we can reach our goal in no time. Click on the button below to donate any amount and help us continue saying thank you to front line IDF soldiers.
Donate by Check – Tax Deductible
Please make checks out to Central Fund For Israel Please mail to:
17 E Stemmer Ln
Suffern, NY 10901-4304
*Only Checks for $250 or more will be issued receipts automatically by The Central Fund.
P.O Box 1076
Cheques should be made out to SAJFID and mailed to:
PO BOX 1029
Donate Online – Tax Deductible
To donate through Central Fund for Israel online through Network for Good, click here.