During normal times, David Amar, owner of a Tiberias camping and army supply store Yabashot Lehayalim, finds his store frequented by hikers, soldiers and laymen alike. However, during the recent conflict with Hizbullah, Amar said Tiberias "was closed; it was like Yom Kippur."
Amar lamented that during the war, the only patrons of his store were reservists on their way to the front.
"They were buying webbing, bags and holsters, items the army should have supplied them with," he said, also noting that reservists were using their own money to buy such basic supplies.
"The first day we arrived for reserve duty, the company commander told us to prepare ourselves because in two days we would be going into Lebanon," said Daniel, a 27-year-old Paratrooper reservist originally from California. "We had nowhere near the equipment we needed to go in, but every one of us was very motivated to get in there and put an end to the Katyushas."
"I was going to spray paint a North Face backpack I use for university and take it in with me to Lebanon," added Daniel. "At that time, I didn't care, I would have gone into Lebanon with a sharp stick."
Daniel said the company's initial mission was postponed a day, then a week, and was changed completely before the unit was finally deployed to the central sector in southern Lebanon. During that delay, more equipment became available as private donors and the soldiers themselves bought equipment that is standard issue to soldiers in their regular army service. Daniel said that in his reserve unit alone, at least NIS 100,000 was spent at stores like Yabashot Lehayalim and Rikushet.
When Amar received word that in addition to regular equipment, soldiers also needed basic items such as socks, underwear and undershirts, he decided to establish a Web site (www.havila.co.il) allowing people to donate these items to soldiers on the front.
"I had to do it," explained Amar. "I had recently finished my reserve duty and this was my way of contributing to the war effort."
Once he received packages from donors, Amar would contact the military companies, who would send soldiers to pick them up. Sometimes, he said, he would rent a truck and bring the supplies as close to the soldiers as he could get without an armored vehicle.
Amar said he received donations from Israel and abroad and commented that the response to the Web site was impressive and generous. He expressed gratitude to all who donated items and stressed that it was important for everyone to participate in the fight for Israel's security.
Due to the generosity of private donors, Daniel said in his particular "Spearhead" reserve unit, the soldiers ultimately went into battle with adequate equipment. However, the lengthy delay before deployment and a perceived unwillingness by senior commanders to take required, if be it costly, action against Hizbullah left the soldiers frustrated. Buying their own equipment only "added insult to injury," he said, and wasted the initial sky-high morale of the soldiers.