“We appreciate that you came. Here, we don’t know what can happen in the next five minutes,” an IDF base commander told the United with Israel visitors.
By Atara Beck
United with Israel’s eighth annual Chanukah party for IDF soldiers serving on the front lines was held at an army base situated approximately two kilometers from the Gaza border.
At each year’s Chanukah celebration, thanks to the generous support of United with Israel (UWI) members from around the world, the organization provides soldiers with ‘warm winter’ care packages as a token of appreciation. The packages include fleece jackets, hats, gloves and neck warmers.
They also receive beautifully wrapped gift packages of Chanukah menorahs, candles, chocolates and assorted treats, as well as personal notes of support and encouragement from friends around the world.
This year’s event, which included festive music and dancing at the base, was followed by a delicious full-course meal for soldiers and the UWI group at nearby Kibbutz Tzohar in the Negev Regional Council.
Approximately 200 visitors participated, including 50 Tel Aviv University students from abroad who came with former Member of Knesset Rabbi Dov Lipman.
At the base, ahead of the lighting of the Chanukah menorah – a unique metal sculpture made from Kassam rockets fired from Gaza into Israel – the regional commander addressed the crowd, saying how much he and his soldiers appreciate the visit.
“We are so happy that you came,” he said.
“We’re protecting the people in Israel and Jews around the world. The difference between us and our neighbors is that we don’t choose to fight, but we must defend ourselves. They send women and children as human shields,” he explained.
“We celebrate the holiday with all our soldiers – Jews, Druze and others,” he added.
In the spirit of Chanukah, which recalls the miracle of the Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago, the commander pointed to what he sees as today’s miracle: the decision made by Jews around the world to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel).
Indeed, some of the soldiers at the base were “lone soldiers” from places like Florida and London, who came without their families to serve in the IDF and protect the Jewish state.
The base commander also addressed the visitors, explaining that the Hebrew letters for IDF (Tzahal) are placed on the left side of the uniform, “on the heart.”
‘Not the Safest Place’
‘Every morning we wake up and ask ourselves what we can we do to protect the people, especially those living in this area, which is not the safest place…
“I promise you that all of us will continue to make sure that the people of Israel, including those in the south, will have a normal life.
“We appreciate that you came,” he added. “Here, we don’t know what can happen in the next five minutes.”
The commanders and soldiers “thanked us sincerely, but we all know that the thanks belongs only to them,” UWI founder Michael Gerbitz said. “These young soldiers put their lives on the line every single day so that people like us can live in peace,” added Gerbitz.
En route to the base, the UWI group made a stop at Chetz Hashachor, the Black Arrow Memorial, located 900 meters from the Gaza border, where the “miracle of the bus” occurred recently. On November 13, a Hamas missile struck a bus merely minutes after 50 young soldiers had exited the vehicle.
Treating the Wounded
During the stopover, an IDF officer discussed the challenges faced in the area, and a group of border police simulated a number of medical emergencies, when soldiers and civilians are wounded by Hamas terror.
On display was an all-terrain 4×4 anti-terror vehicle (ATV) donated by UWI to Yatar, an elite counter-terror volunteer force under the command of the border police that works hand-in-hand with security intelligence units and special commando forces to prevent and combat terror.