Israeli soldiers are hot

The situation is heating up on both the northern and Gazan fronts. An organization, Yahad – United for Israel’s Soldiers, is trying to cool it down.

IDF soldiers stationed near the Gaza border on May 15th, 2018. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
IDF soldiers stationed near the Gaza border on May 15th, 2018.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Violence has flared up on the Gaza frontier for nearly three months and it could intensify.
While the military has shown restraint, fearing that too many Palestinian casualties will spark more violence – and possibly the fourth Gaza war in the past 10 years – many say the situation on Israel’s southern border is strikingly like the situation prior to the last Gaza war four years ago, which resulted in a bloody, 50-day conflict.
In the north, Hezbollah’s stockpile of more than 100,000 rockets poses a threat to citizens across half the country.
Moreover, new military and weapons training in Syria by the Russian army has raised concern among the IDF of possible ground attacks against Israeli communities.
The situation is heating up on both fronts. My organization, Yahad – United for Israel’s Soldiers, is trying to cool it down.
On June 27, Yahad, together with the organization Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, launched Soldier Appreciation Week, which runs until July 8.
The week kicked off with a pool party at Israel’s largest water park, Shefayim, for some 5,000 lone soldiers with no immediate family in Israel. The next day, we held a similar event for some 5,000 front-line IDF combat soldiers.
This week, among other efforts, Yahad is delivering ice cream and other cold treats to soldiers across the country. Our minivans, equipped with small freezers full of ice cream, will travel north, south, east and west to every military base – even to the most remote bases on the tip of Mount Hermon or the Egyptian border.
The purpose of this ice cream is only partially about cooling the soldiers off on a hot day. It is mostly about showing our soldiers love. They need this support when they are up all night patrolling a border fence or undergoing vigorous training exercises that will enable them to protect the people of Israel in the event of an escalation.
We want our soldiers to understand that we are with them if there is a conflict and they must go to battle. Like Operation Protective Edge in 2014, we know that wars often – and one might even say usually – happen in the summer.
If Israel does go to war, the soldiers will need this ice cream more than they need bullets in their magazines or any other military equipment that the IDF can and will provide.
It’s hard to believe the impact of seemingly small gifts of ice cream and peanut-butter Bamba. But I know the impact, because I have delivered the ice cream and seen the joy on the faces of the soldiers who receive it.
And I was once a soldier, too.
This ice cream is a mental weapon. It is morale. It is a sign that the IDF can count on the people of Israel to support them.
I was commander of a special sabotage unit in the Paratroopers Brigade during the First Lebanon War. An hour before I was wounded in a battle against a Syrian commando, some volunteers came with small sweets and shampoo. I took a shower with this shampoo and I felt refreshed and clean.
I was positioned far from the center of Israel, right near Beirut, with my fellow combat soldiers. I remember that these volunteers had to come far to deliver this shampoo to me.
It has been 36 years, yet I remember that visit like it was yesterday, probably even better and more accurately than I remember the battle that followed.
The IDF is a Jewish army. The Torah states, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
The IDF is the military of the Jewish people. The army serves the people and the people must think about and support their army.
Before you take your summer vacation, before you get on your flight to America or South America or the Far East, don’t forget the soldiers who are staying behind to protect our Jewish homeland. On Soldier Appreciation Week, thank an IDF soldier.
Gratitude is what the ice cream is all about.
Brigadier-General (Res.) Yehiel Gozal is the CEO of “Yahad” – United for Israel’s soldiers.