Aside from the “warm winter gifts” that were given thanks to the UWI donors, what truly warmed the soldiers’ hearts was the atmosphere of love and appreciation.
By Atara Beck, United with Israel
Each year – except for when the coronavirus lockdown was in effect – United with Israel (UWI) organizes a festive Chanukah celebration for IDF combat soldiers serving in one of the most dangerous areas of the country.
This time, the event was held on Monday, the first day of the eight-day festival, at one of four bases situated in the biblical city of Hebron.
The Hebron area is among the most perilous in Israel, situated in the vicinity of major terror cells.
Thanks to the generous UWI donors, each soldier received a Chanukah gift, or “warm winter package,” consisting of a winter fleece jacket, hat, neck warmer and gloves. This was in addition to holiday treats.
But what truly warmed the soldiers’ hearts was the feeling of love and appreciation that radiated the atmosphere. Close to 200 people came to party with the soldiers, who are far from home and unable to share the holiday festivities with their families.
Everyone enjoyed a pizza dinner, traditional Chanukah donuts (in Hebrew, sufganiyot), and live music. Soldiers laughed and danced with their visitors, and the joy was palpable.
Aside from the gifts, the soldiers were given much encouragement – not only from those who attended, but from people around the world who love Israel.
UWI founder Michael Gerbitz read aloud just a few of the hundreds of letters of support from fans of the IDF, including Jews and non-Jews who appreciate the commitment and sacrifice of these young men.
Indeed, they are protecting all of us from terrorists intent on murdering innocent civilians and destroying the Jewish state – a great ally of the West and a bastion of freedom in a hostile region.
“Many thanks for keeping Israel secure. May you have a rewarding, safe and warm Chanukah,” wrote a couple from the USA.
A woman from Sweden thanked ID soldiers for “protecting your people everywhere it is needed. Love you all and lots of blessings, thanks for everything.”
“I love you guys heaps and pray for the safety and protection of God’s chosen people,” wrote a man from Australia.
The ancient city of Hebron, located in the Judean Hills, is where King David first ruled before establishing his kingdom in Jerusalem. Hebron, which had a continuous Jewish presence until the infamous massacre in 1929, was liberated from Jordan in 1967 during the Six Day War, when Israel faced an existential threat from the surrounding Arab countries and miraculously came out victorious beyond expectation.
Hebron, one of the four holy cities (the others are Jerusalem, Tiberias and Safed), is where the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs is located. The group visited and prayed at the site, which in itself was an incredibly moving experience.
They toured the Jewish part of the city – which in fact is only 20% of Hebron since the signing of the Wye River Memorandum by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, witnessed by former US President Bill Clinton. The accord was meant to help bring peace, but the result was an increase in terror.
New York native Mark Dweck – a “lone soldier,” meaning he has no family in Israel but volunteers to serve in the army of the Jewish state – is among the heroic fighters serving at that base, and the crowd was blown away by his unprepared but moving talk, from the heart, explaining exactly why he chose to spend three years far away from home, sacrificing comfort and security.
“I’m a Jew,” he said. Citing the profound Jewish history of Hebron in particular, Dweck stressed the importance of guarding the land so that no one can take away what rightfully belongs to the Jewish people.
In addition, the IDF protects not only Israel, but Jews all over the world as well. Had there been an IDF during the Holocaust, the massacre of six million Jews would never have happened, he said.