United with Israel’s 2015 Chanukah Party with Israeli soldiers was a particularly festive occasion. Female soldiers were the first to break out in dance, with the men following their lead. A great time was had by all!
On Tuesday evening, December 8, 2015, the third night of Chanukah, three busloads of American and Israeli families from Bet Shemesh joined United with Israel for its fifth annual Chanukah celebration on an IDF base organized by United with Israel and Thank Israeli Soldiers.
This year’s event took place at the Machane Ofer army base near Jerusalem and Ramallah, where the approximately 200 guests were welcomed with open arms by the appreciative soldiers.
One soldier said she had been “looking forward to this great event for weeks. No one ever comes here to visit us. We are so excited you are here.”
As a way of saying ‘thank you’ for protecting them, the visitors presented the soldiers with special gifts, including essentials such as warm winter fleece jackets as well as Chanukah packages that contained a menorah, candles, chocolate treats and notes of support from admirers around the world.
Jerusalem has become a primary target for stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks during the current wave of Palestinian terror. The Machane Ofer base – located off route 443, between Jerusalem’s Givat Ze’ev neighborhood and the Arab city of Ramallah – is in the vicinity of several Arab villages known as hotbeds of terror.
The roughly 300 soldiers who joined the celebration are stationed throughout different strategic points in the Jerusalem region. They include border patrol officers and monitors who track enemy movements, as well as superior fighting and counter-terrorism intelligence units.
The young men and women serving at the Machane Ofer form an integral part of Israel’s front line against terror and have helped to prevent numerous terror attacks against Israelis. They include many female non-combat soldiers from intelligence units who serve as the “eyes and ears of the IDF.”
The event featured festive music, dancing, a delicious meal, sufganiot (jelly donuts), and the traditional lighting of the Chanukah menorah.
The fact that the menorah-lighting ceremony was held approximately 10 kilometers from Modi’in, where the Chanukah story took place, was especially moving. Just as the Maccabees over 2,000 years ago defended the Jewish people from their Greek enemies – the battle of a small group of courageous fighters against a mighty foe – so, too, the IDF soldiers are bravely defending the people of Israel in the modern era.
The unique menorah used at the base, known as the Sderot Menorah, was created from the remains of Hamas rockets that exploded in Israel. Nearly 20,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza since the Second Intifada in 2001.
The day before the party, United with Israel received a message that Prime Minister Netanyahu requested to use this menorah for a lighting ceremony on an IDF base in Mishor Adumim. UWI was honored to loan this menorah to the Prime Minister’s team for the event (and was thrilled that the menorah was hand-delivered to Machane Ofer base for the UWI party the next day).
Israeli artist Yaron Bob has transformed these missiles of terror into an object of beauty and light. In fact, the story of this special menorah is the story of the Jewish People, symbolizing strength and endurance. The Sderot Menorah is featured on the Rockets into Roses website – click here for more info.
The soldiers and guests were addressed by base commander “Benny” and by Abba Clayman, founder of Thank Israeli Soldiers, who helped organize the event.
Thousands of personal messages of encouragement for the soldiers came from both Jewish and non-Jewish admirers. The letters came from dozens of countries around the world, including Sweden, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, Canada and the US – to name a few.
“You must know that there are millions of people around the world, even in some of the most anti-Israel countries, who love you and support you,” the soldiers were told. “The modern-day miracles of Israel are because of your incredible mesirat nefesh (outstanding dedication) for the people of Israel. You are fighting for the entire Jewish people, not just those in Israel.”
One of the soldiers on base, asked what she believes is the impression most people in other countries have of the IDF, replied without hesitation: “For those who don’t like us, it’s too bad for them. We’re protecting our country.”
The party was indeed a true simcha (happy occasion). Female soldiers were the first to break out in dancing after the meal, accompanied by lively music. Luckily, the men did follow with awesome dancing as well…