|Three beautiful chayalim greet us with smiles and stories.|
Happily, they are not "lost children" or "off the derech kids."
They are the young men and women in uniform, who watch our highways, putting themselves in constant danger so that we can travel and live and sleep safely.
Of course, many of them are from families that have lived in Israel for generations. ("I'm from Haifa; but my grandfather came from Syria." "My family is here already seven generations, from Morocco.")
But many of them are olim, just like we are. They are from Canada and Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Some of them are here without their families -- and perhaps Standing Together is even more important to them.
According to its mission statement, Standing Together is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Israeli soldiers on active duty, and is funded totally by donations from concerned Jews throughout the world. It is a voluntary organization with no offices, almost no employees and no expense accounts.
The Dearly Beloved and I had the privilege of joining a small band of volunteers, lead by the founder of Standing Together, David Landau. When we should have been heading off to sleep (and when many of the soldiers' contemporaries might just be starting up the night's entertainment), we drove out to some of the area machsomim (checkpoints) to visit our heroes.
|Their families live not far from each other. "Did you know each other before the army?" "No -- we met here. But we feel like we knew each other since we were born. We are brothers. The army makes you feel that way."|
|We gave them stickers with "love notes" on them. "Give me more stickers! The more, the better!"|
|The sticker says: "Dear Soldier! Jews all over the world value and appreciate the holy service that you and your comrades do on behalf of the Nation of Israel. All of us "stand together"!! We will be happy to hear from you..."|
It's enough to make a mama weep.
|My new friend (and also a neighbor!), Chaya Mandelcorn, writes for Makor Rishon newspaper. She also couldn't stop smiling, and told stories of her mother. "She would walk around hugging every one of them if she were here!" she said. "It would catch them off-guard -- but they would love it!"|
If you still live abroad, think about arranging a mission with David and Standing Together when you are in Israel. Nothing makes you feel more like part of the Jewish story than being permitted to participate, rather than just being a tourist.