Serving their country

Standing Together, International Young Israel Movement provided soldiers with holiday cheer on Independence Day.

Soldiers stand guard near border with Egypt 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Soldiers stand guard near border with Egypt 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
■ STANDING TOGETHER, based in Efrat and headed by David Landau and Miriam Gottlieb, partnered with the Jerusalem-headquartered International Young Israel Movement (IYIM) and friends throughout the world to ensure that soldiers who had to remain on active duty on their bases did not miss out on Independence Day celebrations.
The two organizations, with a team of 400 volunteers living in Israel plus visitors from overseas, provided holiday cheer and festive barbecues for some 3,000 soldiers in 16 army bases.
The overall menu included 6,000 hot dogs, 3,000 hamburgers, oodles of meat for grilling, massive supplies of different salads, thousands of pitot, loads of humous, thousands of bottles of soft drinks, large quantities of ketchup, watermelon, pretzels, cake and more.
Standing Together, which was founded in 2003 as a nonprofit organization, is totally dedicated to the welfare and well being of Israel’s soldiers and, in addition to providing Independence Day treats, provides food packages for major festivals, ice cream days in the summer, mini fridges, microwave ovens and personalized bathrobes for wounded soldiers, a mobilized Internet service on its truck to enable lone soldiers to communicate with their families abroad, and much more.
“This was our best year yet,” said Gottlieb, development director at Standing Together, who was the operational coordinator for the 16 bases.
In the Nitzanim army base in the South, where there was a larger contingent of religious soldiers, some of whom had just entered basic training, there was a special show of appreciation for the concern demonstrated by the volunteers. The soldiers began singing and dancing, and pulled the volunteers into their circles. They didn’t begin eating until everyone had danced.
At the Betar army base in Gush Etzion, the volunteers were greeted by soldiers on reserve duty. These soldiers, many of them students and even family men and women, rubbed their eyes in disbelief at the sight of the cars filled with goodies.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz, the director of the Northern region of IYIM and rabbi of Young Israel of Karmiel, was called in to coordinate the two army bases on the Golan Heights. From Karmiel itself, more than 20 families with children went to the Revaya base in the northern Golan along with other volunteers. The soldiers were initially surprised to see so many civilians, but according to Schwartz their eyes lit up when they were told that the civilians wanted to spend the national holiday with them. Elka, a three-year-old, captured the heart of every soldier as she handed out stickers containing the message “Dear soldier, Jews from around the world value and appreciate your holy work for our nation. Hag sameah.”
Reactions were similar at all the other bases. Daniel Meyer, executive director of IYIM-Israel, said it had been a pleasure to work with Standing Together because the two organizations engage in similar projects. Seeing the smiles on the soldiers’ faces, he said, was worth all the effort.
■ DEPUTY FOREIGN Minister Danny Ayalon, who does not live in Jerusalem, had to spend a considerable amount of time in the capital on both Remembrance Day for the Fallen and Independence Day attending official and non-official ceremonies, where in some cases he was also a speaker. He was cutting it very close when he agreed to speak to the Hatzvi Israel congregation in the twilight period between the conclusion of Remembrance Day and the beginning of Independence Day.
Ayalon strongly disagrees with President Shimon Peres on the suitability of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a partner for peace. He voiced his opinion of Abbas in no uncertain terms, saying that Abbas was in the forefront of efforts to delegitimize Israel. Some congregants thought that, given the occasion, Ayalon could have said something more inspiring and less political.