Tues, Feb 19th, on a chilly day, about 20 volunteers and Standing Together (www.stogether.org)’s Director and Founder met in front of the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem for a special Purim mission. They were on their way with over a thousand mishloach manot, purim packages, for IDF soldiers serving their country in the North. On the way the volunteers wrote letters to the soldiers to express their appreciation for all that the soldiers do and wish them Happy Purim. The bus brought the group to 8 different army bases near Israel’s Northern Border. These are small bases, each with soldiers, who are far from their homes and families and the soldiers were expecting that the holiday would go by with very little celebration. Some of the larger bases sent trucks to pick up packages for their soldiers.
The group of volunteers was very heterogeneous. There were senior citizens, and children, students and parents, male and female all there for the purpose of showing the soldiers they care. Here are the comments of many of them.
Carolyn Diamond, a grandmother visiting from Lawrence, NY two of her 2 grandsons, ages 8 and 6 out of school to come with her on this adventure. The children were dressed in Purim costumes to add to the holiday spirit. She said “It has been a wonderful experience for them and for us. The soldiers are warm and friendly, and they really appreciate what we are doing. They are happy to see us,we brought smiles to their faces. So it’s really a Win/ Win. Great day for everyone”.
Miriam Shear,Menahelet of Shir Bamidbar Seminary in Maaleh Adumim said “We love what we are doing. It’s so important to see the conditions they live under and for them to know that we care. Gratifying to see them so happy. I live here and I am not ever leaving Eretz Yisrael so I am here to let them know what they are doing is so vital for all of us.”
Barbara Friedman, came on Aliyah from Montreal this past summer .She knew about Standing Together and has been happy to be involved because they spend everything on the soldiers. “Today has been an amazing positive experience, there is electricity in the air. The soldiers are energized and feel grateful and excited. We are a heterogeneous group, all excited about giving. This is the ultimate group for this important activity.”
Yizchack Brown, made Aliyah from Kansas City MS, lives in Jerusalem, he said “The joy from the soldiers is overwhelming. They gave us a great lunch, showed us how much it meant to them that we are here.”
Sue Benjamin, lives in Harrison, New York,came to Israel for short vacation. “I have a renewed respect for what the chayalim do after seeing how they live and work, I feel so safe because they are protecting us. It was a beautiful Day, the soldiers are happy to see us, overall an amazing experience”
Miriam Traube, from Monsey, NY is studying this year in Michlala in Jerusalem. Her sister had gone with Standing Together to visit soldiers a few a weeks ago. “I loved this experience, I want to bring my friends. I really think everyone should do this. It was so nice to make the serious soldiers smile and enjoy themselves.”
Devorah Hollander, from Silver Spring,MD is studying for a second year in Jerusalem at Sharfmans, “The soldiers were so happy to see us, it makes their job easier when they know people care. All day there was lots of simcha and joy and it was incredible.”
George and Chava Schwartz, from Baltimore, MD, in Israel for purim, said “David Landau is doing a phenomenal job, we brought 500 card from people in Baltimore and gave them out earlier in the week. We feel like this is a continuation of that and we are so excited to be part of this. We have 2 sons who were in the IDF. The soldiers are reacting positively, our son who was in the army didn’t think they would be so excited. He was wrong. The Soldiers are singing and dancing with us. They stopped doing whatever it was they were doing in order to greet us. It is truly great to be able to see what the soldiers are doing and how they live and we are really excited to be able to express our hakarat hatov. “
The group even was able to give a ride home to a soldier, Aharon, who was off from the army but visiting his friends. He said “this was very nice to see, gives a good feeling, Purim will be a regular day on the base and this makes the soldiers happy and very much appreciate the volunteers”
All in all, Standing Together Volunteers gave out more than 1200 purim packages in a few hours. As is usually the case with Standing Together visits to soldiers, it is unclear who enjoyed the experience more, the volunteers or the soldiers. The whole trip back to Jerusalem, phones were ringing with calls from soldiers who received the letters from the volunteers, thanking them for caring. That’s what Standing Together is all about, showing the soldiers that people all over the world care about them and what they do. All year long, Standing Together is working to make sure our soldiers know how valuable they are to our people. Our next project will be ices and ice cream for Passover.