'Dear Israeli soldier, Germany is with you'

It reads like so many other letters pouring in from Jews abroad to the troops up north. "Dear Israeli soldier," S.K. writes, "I support and appreciate very much your efforts of self-defense of your own home country, Israel, against the combined attacks from north and south by Islamists from Hizbullah and Hamas." The sentiments are touching and familiar, but the source is unusual. S.K. is writing from the heart - but it is a Christian heart, and one that beats in Germany. S.K. was writing as part of the I Like Israel movement. "I am German, born after 1945," S.K. continues. "I have much respect for what your people has built up since. If possible, I shall send money to the Israeli Embassy in Berlin, in order to improve your situation." The sympathy and generosity that S.K. expresses stem from the feeling that Israeli soldiers are "fighting not only for Israel, but also for the whole free western world against Arab Islamism." It's a feeling that, apparently, is common in Germany these days. Scores of people have written letters of support to IDF soldiers - and dozens more write in each day, prompted by a campaign from I Like Israel, a private initiative started by German Jews to show non-Jewish support for Israel in Europe. I Like Israel founder Leo Sucharewicz, who was born in Poland and grew up in Germany, served with the Golani Brigade on the northern front during the Six Day War. Remembering how much it had lifted his spirits to receive letters of encouragement in 1967, Sucharewicz started the letter-writing campaign recently because he knew the impact it could have. "When you sit down to write a letter, you really have to think about what you're feeling. When people from far away send letters like that it supports not only the soldiers in Lebanon, but the whole country," he says, speaking in a Tel Aviv caf . Indeed, these German friends write with such sympathy that it is almost as if they were blood relations. "Although I don't know you personally," writes Alessandro-Sergio, "I sympathize with you; I feel as close to you all as if you were my brothers and sisters." Nicolle, a young woman from Romania who is studying in Germany, writes, "Hello, soldier! I just want to tell you that there are many people in Germany who are supporting you... "You are everyday in the media and everybody is crying with you when your brothers are getting hurt or die for their country! And all these people wish you good luck and strength - and also not to stop believing in yourself, because we do and we won't stop!" Recently, Sucharewicz says, he was asked to speak to senior German army officers on the strategic implications on the rise of Islamism - a subject the officers took very seriously. A letter from a retired German lieutenant-colonel shows just how much Israel is perceived as the front line of defense against that threat. After describing his admiration for the "leadership and the gallantry of the IDF," J. Fiebelkorn writes: "You are not fighting a conventional enemy, an army fighting for the defense of her people or the honor of a state. You are fighting with an enemy who sees the death of women and children as part of its strategy, who rates dead civilians as martyrs for their sake, who propagates his defeat as witness for his martyrdom and the honor of the Arab world. "This is an enemy that we in all countries of democracy have to fear deeply, and you are the ones who are taking up this ugly and frightening fight at the front line… Be assured that anyone who can read the news correctly, who knows about the real threat posed by Hizbullah and Hamas, not only to the very existence of Jewry, but also to Europe in total, is with you in this battle for humanity and freedom," Fiebelkorn says. "I'd say that about 80 percent of Germans believe that Hizbullah is a threat to all of us," Sucharewicz says. "In these letters that we are collecting for the soldiers, people keep saying over and over that they believe Israel's fight in Lebanon is a fight on behalf of Europe and all democracies around the world." Through the letter-writing campaign, Sucharewicz is building on the success of the organization's Israel Day rallies, held in more than 100 cities throughout Europe on Israel's Independence Day. The rallies, first held in 2003, grow in number and in size each year. With financial and logistical assistance from Israel's Foreign and Tourism ministries, the all-volunteer I Like Israel could do even more good across Europe and beyond. The letters that Germans keep writing to Israeli soldiers is just the beginning. "Everything is possible," says Sucharewicz. "It simply must be done."