Formerly kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit visited with some 50 lone soldiers, as part of the FIDF / Nefesh B'Nefesh Lone Soldier Program, Thursday evening in Jerusalem, and expressed to them his support for their efforts.
The soldiers, who come from the US, Canada, Australia, Costa Rica, Norway, Mexico, South Africa, France, Argentina, Brazil and Spain and serve in units such as Infantry, Intelligence, Paratroopers and Communications, gathered at the Nefesh B’Nefesh offices.
“I admire each one of you for what you are doing for our country,” Schalit told the group.
“Your decision to leave your families and friends and make aliya on your own and join the army is truly courageous and admirable. Although you are far from your own families, you are not alone – we are all one family and are here to support you and make you feel most welcome as Israeli citizens.”
The NGO, “A Package from Home,” held a concert in cooperation with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra also on Thursday evening to honor lone as well as wounded IDF soldiers at the Henry Crown Symphony Hall in Jerusalem.
The event’s proceeds will be used for A Package from Home and its activities advancing the welfare of soldiers.
Barbara Silverman, 82, founded the organization 13 years ago as the second intifada began and she found herself thinking of IDF soldiers. With the help of some neighbors and family, Silverman started ordering items and assembled care packages in her home, which she then mailed to IDF units.
“There are things the army doesn’t provide,” Silverman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“When I asked an army official about this, he told me that they have a budget and that when they have to decide between M16s and fleece jackets, the M16s win.”
As word of her project spread out, the IDF contacted her and arranged for pick ups for the boxes.
To date, the NGO has sent out over 135,000 packages and continues to regularly do so. The boxes include items such as underwear, warm clothing for winter, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant as well as candy and sweet snacks. In addition, each package also contains several letters of support to the soldier written by a Jewish day school student in the US.
Thursday evening’s concert was initiated when a member of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra approached Silverman in a restaurant and expressed his desire to help raise funds for A Package from Home.
“I didn’t know him at all, but he came up to me and just said he wants to do something for my project. It was really touching,” she said, “He then explained he was the piano soloist of the orchestra.” Some 700 tickets were sold for the show. The prices of tickets ranged between NIS 100 and NIS 250, but Silverman also reserved free seats for soldiers and for whoever wished to attend but could not afford the cost.