Last month, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) New Jersey Chapter sponsored three “Fun Days” at Hof Dor beach for 2,200 lone soldiers. The events – geared to soldiers who serve in combat and combat-support units – were targeted both to new immigrants and to those not in touch with their Israeli families.
The events included games, food, music, and massages – with each soldier receiving a beach towel and breakfast buffet on arrival. Orange, the Israeli telephone company, sponsored free calls to soldier’s homes, and Greet TV provided digital movies. Mizrachi singer Kobi Peretz performed during each of the three outings, and other celebrities attended to show their support and talk with the soldiers. Avi Oren and Mike Gross, representing New Jersey FIDF, were also on hand.
While intended to provide much-needed respite to soldiers who are far from their families, the “Fun Days” also gave the soldiers a chance to meet with their IDF social workers.
Mendham resident Paul Rothman said he spoke with his son as he left one of the gatherings, heading back to his kibbutz for Yom Kippur. Rothman’s son, a paratrooper, “isn’t easily impressed,” said his father. Nevertheless, the soldier gave high marks to the FIDF-sponsored event.
Claire Hirschhorn of Fair Lawn said she heard from her son, as well. The soldier’s mother said she knew her son had been feeling low, missing his family during the holidays.
“I could tell immediately that something had changed and his spirit was uplifted,” she said. “He’d spent the day on the beach, the water was clear and jellyfish-free, and they played tug-of-war (his unit, Golani, won of course!) It really meant a lot to him. He’s in a stressful place, so it was nice for him to have the day to unwind.”
The FIDF New Jersey campaign supports lone soldiers by funding events such as “Fun Days” and helping to subsidize flights home. The group is holding a fundraiser this Saturday evening, Nov. 5, at the Sheraton Meadowlands in East Rutherford, to “pay tribute to this amazing group of brave soldiers and our New Jersey families,” according to organization leaders, who point out that the cost of sponsoring a “Fun Day” for one soldier is $72.
Even if you cannot make the dinner, you can help support the soldiers of Tzahal (the IDF). For more information, www.FIDF.org/NJ, or call Margo Katz, (646) 274-9614.