Hillel Student and Teacher Make Special Delivery to IDF Base in Tze’elim

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By Daphne Orenshein, Fourth Grade teacher at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy.
“I can’t describe to you how much this means to us. That these children at your school, Hillel, care for us like this… there are no words.” These were the words of one of the Sayeret Givati officers in my son, Kevin’s battalion. It was all worth it. This project, this adventure, was a fruitful success.
Just one week earlier, I was speaking to pe Coach Chumie Begin at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy (“Hillel”) about the extremely frigid weather that Kevin’s group was experiencing while patrolling the northern border of Israel. Coach Chumie suggested that Hillel’s Student Council get involved. That was all it took. Rabbi Zachary Swigard, Coach Chumie and all the student council representatives got busy collecting funds from Hillel’s families to purchase thermal gloves, socks and hats for the IDF soldiers in Sayeret Givati. A financial goal was set. It was surpassed in less than 3 days! Way to go Hillel community!
We had planned to visit Israel over winter break with our youngest son, Brian, who had just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and had never been to Israel. We decided to purchase the military-quality winter gear from Botach Tactical and carry it with us to hand-deliver to the soldiers. The Botach family was eager to assist and, in fact, as parents at Hillel as well, donated the hats. Everything was coming together beautifully. It was enough to make a representative and alumna of Hillel like me simply cry out of elated joy. In fact, Brian was looking forward to this ‘special delivery’ even more than visiting the Kotel!
Visiting the base, we were allowed to climb into Kevin’s UAV (armored tank) and then observe as the soldiers were drilled on repairing the tread of another tank. We waited patiently for our chance to give the soldiers the gifts from Hillel’s families. Kevin purchased snacks and soda in advance. He told us that half of the soldiers were at another base setting it up as it was to be the new Sayeret Givati base.
Finally, it was time. As I explained how Hillel is unique in that we are loyal to and highly respectful of the IDF and Israel in general, the soldiers sat, fully focused, not yet touching the snacks. I explained that the students of Hillel barely heard about the plight of the soldiers and winter when they began suggesting how to help and handing over coins from their pockets! The 1st/2nd grades at Hillel took a special interest in this project as they knew that their teacher, Morah Yael Gelfer herself had served in the IDF. Her class alone raised over $300! There were enough funds to consider adding to the gifts. I told Kevin to investigate what other gear or supplies the soldiers could use. After hearing how devoted the Hillel families had been and seeing the actual items before them, not merely the promise of them, the soldiers began whooping and shaking Brian’s hand, hugging him and thanking us, as representatives of Hillel.
Of all the events we experienced in Israel, the visit to this base was overwhelmingly the greatest. Seeing Brian shake hands with his ‘heroes’ who protect our Holy Land on an hourly basis, rain or shine, and seeing the soldiers shower us with gratitude in return, it just demonstrated how “Kol Yisrae-l Arevim Ze Lazeh.” Watching the soldiers help each other find the right size hat or gloves or socks was just heart-warming. They nudged and teased each other, laughing and celebrating. I spent the 2-hour drive back with a silly grin on my face, repeating how special that experience was. And the best part was knowing that Hillel can continue to assist our soldiers as the funds were still being brought to Hillel while we were already in Israel.
Many, many thanks to the Hillel community. This truly was an adventure full of mitzvoth. Yasher koach!