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Water boys

Local family donates hydration packs to Israeli soldiers

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The Sklarin family of Teaneck donated “shlukers” to Israeli soldiers. Eli Sklarin is in the second row, fifth from right, as the hydration packs are given out. One Israel fund

Forty young men from a Beit Shemesh yeshiva met 40 young men from the Israel Defense Forces’ Dragon artillery battalion last Thursday.

The yeshiva students, including Eli Sklarin of Teaneck, had come to take part in the Sklarin family’s donation of 100 hydration packs (“shlukerim”) to the battalion. The soldiers, including 21-year-old former Teaneck resident David Englard, were mostly 18 and 19 like their visitors from Yeshivat Reishit Yerushalayim, a post-high school program.

“At the beginning, the two groups were standing apart awkwardly,” said Marc Prowisor, who facilitated the donation on behalf of One Israel Fund. “I described the project and then the company commander asked his guys to take the boys around and show how they live and what they do. You started seeing them getting closer, having conversations. You saw chemistry happening right before your eyes, even before the equipment was given out.”

This was exactly what the yeshiva’s director of student affairs, Teaneck native Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, was hoping for. When Susan Sklarin had approached him to get permission for Eli to come to the base for the occasion, he’d responded that he would send a whole busload.

“It was a really exciting opportunity for our students to see with their own eyes what is going on with young men their own age in Israel,” said Benovitz. “Talking about it in the classroom is one thing, but seeing it for themselves is invaluable and goes beyond what we can communicate with words.”

Though the yeshiva has 95 first-year students, Benovitz chose 40 so that the experience could be more interactive. As it happened, about 40 soldiers were available at the time of the presentation because others were on patrol. Accordingly, each visitor presented a shluker to a soldier from the lot of 100 that the Sklarins donated.

“The soldiers started looking for anything to give back,” said Prowisor. “They were ripping off emblems from their uniforms and saying, ‘Here, take this to remember us.’ It was so special to watch them connecting, and it’s so good for the yeshiva students to see what a strong people we are.”

Susan Sklarin explained that Englard’s mother, Zahava, is a close family friend. “When Zahava was in Teaneck in November, she showed us a One Israel Fund video of a family presenting shlukers, and I thought of David, and I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ I can’t think of anything better than doing something to make a soldier’s life easier, and water is the most crucial thing for them.”

According to the OneIsraelFund.org, the shluker (from the Hebrew word “to sip”) is a thin, lightweight pouch that fits inside a pack and carries up to three liters of water. It’s equipped with a straw-like dispenser that allows for quick, safe hydration, unlike cumbersome canteens. This is essential for combat soldiers carrying up to 80 pounds of gear on their bodies.

Prowisor, a former paratrooper who grew up in Philadelphia, said he is always seeking ways to foster Jewish unity on spiritual and physical levels. Before the Gaza war last January, he thought of the hydration packs when a family visiting for their son’s bar mitzvah wanted to do something special for the IDF troops.

“Water is a common denominator,” said Prowisor. “The shluker has become an important part of a soldier’s life. The army gives them out, but for whatever reason they don’t supply enough of them.” In fact, the IDF came under heavy criticism for not supplying enough water to troops during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Prowisor said he coordinates the donations with the IDF, and all the Israeli companies that supply the raw materials for the packs provide discounts or other services to facilitate the donations.

Thus far, about 1,800 shlukerim, at $36 apiece, have been donated through One Israel Fund. “Sometimes people donate one, some people donate many,” said Prowisor.

Zahava Englard, who also came to the presentation, said she was touched by seeing how Susan Sklarin spoke in simple Hebrew to each of the boys in David’s unit.

“I truly believe that it raises the morale of all the soldiers to know that Jews outside of Israel think of them, worry about them, and want to make sure that, at the very least, they are provided with water when they are out in the field and out in battle,” Englard said.

See www.wejew.com/media/6849/One_Israel_Fund_Shluker_IDF_Water/ for a video of a shluker presentation in Israel.

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