To show solidarity with Israeli soldiers, United with Israel in conjunction with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, organized an IDF Gift Basket Program. Under the direction of the IDF’s Border Patrol Southern Command, 10 American Jewish families toured several IDF bases in the Jerusalem environs in order to distribute gift baskets to IDF soldiers.
Starting at a base adjacent to Rachel’s Tomb on the outskirts of Bethlehem, the tour stopped at several bases on its way to the Old City of Jerusalem. The group was given special permission by the IDF commander to enter into highly restricted military areas and get a feel for what it’s like to be a soldier.
The participating United with Israel families presented the soldiers with food baskets, containing plenty of goodies for the soldiers to enjoy. There were over 50 children on the tour and it was heart-warming to see the soldiers interact so beautifully with the kids. The soldiers were very appreciative of both the good wishes and the good food!
The gift baskets were donated by Israel supporters from all over the world, in order to bring joy to soldiers on the Purim holiday. Personal messages were delivered to the soldiers on behalf of all those who participated in donating the baskets. The smiles on the soldiers’ faces were matched in kind with smiles on the faces of the children who delivered the baskets.
The group visited units that “electronically” patrol the borders and keep a close eye on “flash points” with “super-zoom” military cameras. They also visited a special undercover, plain-clothes unit and a military base with a regimen of military dogs, highly trained to sniff explosives and to locate and attack terrorists when necessary.
The highlight was visiting a lookout post in the Old City of Jerusalem, high above the Kotel (Western Wall) plaza. This unique vantage point offered an amazing view of the Temple Mount from a place that few have been fortunate to go. Inside this new military post is a reception hall where a short ceremony was held.
It was a beautiful experience of unity as the United with Israel families who participated were strictly Orthodox, while the overwhelming majority of soldiers were secular. The two groups embraced eachother with a special feeling of warmth and love – it was a truly inspiring experience for all those present. Both the families and the soldiers expressed the feeling that they gained so much by this unique bonding.
The IDF commanders offered to continue the relationship by taking the families to some very special places that “few people know about”. United with Israel is currently planning another “family tour” – the children are counting down the days. “We gained far more than we have given”, said one of the parents. “For our kids, in this one day, they may have learned more than an entire month sitting in a classroom.”
Everyone involved agreed that it was an experience they will never forget. A video of the entire event, complete with footage from each border patrol location, is currently in production.
United with Israel is a grass-roots organization, founded by American Jewish families living in Israel. Its’ mission is to promote worldwide unity with the People, Country and Land of Israel.