Does one find an army that concerns itself with the happiness of its soldiers to the point that it connects them with families to make them feel at home when they’re away from their own families?
- where the commanding officer phones and interviews families to ensure a good match is made and her soldiers’ specific needs will be met (e.g., cat allergies, loves chicken soup, aversion to fish, interested in shidduchim, etc.)
- that understands the importance of educating immigrant soldiers in the history of, and their heritage in, the land they’re defending.
- that sends young men and women home on a regular basis to spend time with their families for emotional reinforcement (of both the family and the soldier), and arranges for them to attend family life cycle events whenever possible.
- that sends lone soldiers into communities to meet and make a connection with the people they’re protecting.
- that invests the time and money necessary to match each soldier with a customized program to provide him/her with the skills needed to be successful in society and career beyond the military.
Imagine Israel – it’s real, and it’s happening right now. I love this country!
We had the triple pleasure of hosting 3 fine young men this Shabbat and I must tell you that for all the soldiers get out of the program, their host families gain even more. The manners and behavior of every IDF soldier we have met have been impeccable – wonderful young people who enrich our lives and give us hope for the future of this Holy Land.
So what’s it like to host soldiers? This was a typical Shabbat for us, here’s how it unfolded:
Jonathan, Joshua and Baruch arrived in our parking lot Friday afternoon ready to experience Shabbat with our family and Michael went out to meet them. They quickly settled in to playing Wii with Yisrael, and checking e-mail and Facebook while I finished in the kitchen. I put out cookies, melon and drinks to hold them over until our late dinner, and we took turns showering and getting dressed for Shabbat . As I lit candles, the men (including Yisrael 🙂 ) went to Beit Knesset Musar Avicha for Kabbalat Shabbat.
They arrived home with our other guests – Yosef, Marcia & Kayla – and we enjoyed a wonderful Shabbat meal together, the food was secondary to the enlightening and entertaining conversation. Many hours later, everyone settled into bed for a few hours sleep before Michael knocked on their door and yelled “okay ladies, it’s time to get up and go to shul!”
Yisrael slept until 8:30 and Josh came down a few hours later because he hadn’t been feeling so great. A few minutes later they all returned for lunch (around 10:30 AM – something I’m still not accustomed to) and we enjoyed another couple of hours of great conversation and fun. As soon as the table was cleared, Michael, Yisrael, Jonathan & Baruch gathered around to play Risk while Josh curled up with a good book. A little while later 4 of Yisrael’s school friends joined in the fun. Followed by the arrival of our friends Shoshana & Ezra and their children Mandy, Jordana & Boaz. We had a houseful!
A little before 5 pm, armed with water and a map, our soldiers left for a communal seudat shlishit where they were treated to a nice meal and a shiur. They returned a few hours later with their mefakedet (the sweet young woman who had carefully made the arrangements for them to stay with us – I have a feeling she’s going to be a great ‘mommy’ some day) and a game of Set was taught and played through lots of laughter. Being polite and courteous young men, when it was time for Galia to depart they walked her back to the central meeting place. In the meantime, Yisrael returned from Ariel (religious scout troop) and Michael said Havdala.
Our soldiers returned to collect their packs, exchange information and pose for some photos with Yisrael. And then a cell phone rang and it was time for them to leave – it all went by so quickly!
And as they grabbed the kitchen trash (which they insisted on taking out – after they made their beds!) and headed down the stairs, I whispered a prayer for our dear IDF soldiers: May Hashem bless and keep you all safe, healthy and spiritually uplifted as you fulfill the mitzva of guarding and protecting Eretz Yisrael.
I’d like to send the IDF a BIG THANK YOU! for including us in this program. We, who left our entire family behind to make Aliyah, are enriched with new family every time we open our door to another soldier.