Gilad Shalit Visits 50 “Lone Soldiers”

Former kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit visited the Nefesh B’Nefesh offices in Jerusalem yesterday to meet with 50 Lone Soldier Olim from across the world. In an informal gathering, Gilad expressed his support and admiration for these brave young men and women who hail from countries including the USA, Canada, Australia, Costa Rica, Norway, Mexico, South Africa, France, Argentina, Brazil and Spain and are serving in various units such as Infantry, Intelligence, Paratroopers and Communications among others. “I admire each one of you for what you are doing for our country. Your decision to leave your families and friends and make Aliyah on your own and join the army is truly courageous and admirable. Although you are far from your own families, you are not alone — we are all one family and are here to support you and make you feel most welcome as Israeli citizens,” he said.

More after the jump.

“We are very excited to have Gilad Shalit with us, and are also very proud to be the home for Lone Soldiers serving in the IDF, taking care of all their needs in Israel and providing them with ongoing support. We thank the IDF for their partnership in this important project,” said Vice Chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Erez Halfon.

The FIDF/Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program, in collaboration with the Jewish Agency for Israel and KKL, assists newly arrived soldiers with their transition into their new lives in Israel and national service, by offering guidance, social and emotional support, quarterly care packages, adoptive families and financial aid, as well as assistance to parents of Lone Soldiers in the form of information and support.

Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh in cooperation with the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel, is dedicated to revitalizing Aliyah from North America and the UK by removing or minimizing the financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles of Aliyah. The support and comprehensive social services provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh to its 33,000 newcomers, has ensured that 97% of its Olim have remained in Israel.  

A Soldier Speaks of His IDF Unit

— By Hannah Lee

There’s nothing like an eyewitness to convey the visceral and emotional impact of overseas news. So, I’d looked forward to the parlor meeting held at a private residence on the Main Line on Tuesday. Their son, Akiva (a pseudonym to protect his identity), was the featured speaker and he showed computer images of his work with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Their goal for the Friends of the IDF (FIDF) was to outfit his unit, 80-member strong, with fleece jackets, Camelback water bottles, and Leatherman tools.

More after the jump.
Akiva made aliyah (moved to Israel) in August of 2011 after he graduated from Cornell with a degree in engineering. He entered the Israel Defense Force in November. After a 8-month training period and a course as a medic, he was assigned to a combat engineering unit, whose responsibility is to search for mines.  His unit worked along the Syrian border, which he said was the most mined border worldwide after the border between North and South Korea. During last month’s attacks by Hamas, his unit was re-deployed to Gaza.

As a Chayal Boded (Lone Soldier), Akiva is assigned to a religious kibbutz for his time off (others are given stipends for group apartments) and he gets four weeks of vacation for visits home with his family. His engineering degree is not essential to his duties, but his father pointed out that the family insisted that Akiva completes his college education before making aliyah. His medic training was simpler than that for an EMT in the United States, as the focus is on treatment for shock. The first step is in stabilizing the injured soldier for removal from the combat zones.

In its inaugural year, the Pennsylvania and Southern NJ chapter of the Friends of IDF had a busy year. Among their fundraising projects, they built a gym, refurbished a club, supported veterans in their post-IDF studies, donated a Torah scroll to an IDF base, adopted a battalion, sponsored summer camp in the United States for B’nai Mitzvah and soldiers from bereaved families,and sponsored flights home for Lone Soldiers. All donations to FIDF are fully tax-deductible. All purchases are pre-approved by the IDF.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to speak at Friends of the IDF

Former Israel Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will be the keynote speaker at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey 2012 Gala dinner, taking place Sunday, October 14, at Vie in Philadelphia. Over 500 prominent lay leaders and FIDF supporters from across Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey are expected to attend the annual Gala.

More after the jump.
The honoree at the event will be entertainment mogul and Tony Award winner Larry Magid, who has been in the entertainment business for 50 years. He has produced and promoted over 16,000 performances. His numerous awards include two Tony Awards and four Tony Nominations.

The Gala will also be honored by the participation of an Ethiopian-Israeli IDF Officer, Lt. Rachel Samani, who serves as a platoon commander in the Educational Corps where she manages four officers. Also participating in the event is IMPACT! Scholarship recipient Yonatan Benjamin Asseraf, who served as a combat soldier in the Paratrooper’s Brigade in the IDF during the Second Lebanon War and now studies law at the IDC in Herzliya. Yonatan received an OZ medal, an award of excellence, for his participation in the Second Lebanon War.

Among the participants at the event will also be dinner co-chairs Gerry Shreiber and Israel Roizman.

Friends of the IDF National Mission to Israel November 4-10, 2012

Have you ever fantasized about having a face-to-face meeting with the IDF Chief of the General Staff?  Meeting the pilots of the F-16 fighter planes, and seeing a demonstration of their skills?  You have the opportunity to realize these and many other fantasies on November 4, 2012 by participating in the FIDF’s National Mission to Israel.  

This mission brings together FIDF supporters from across the United States and Panama for a unique seven-day journey to Israel. In addition to touring the country and visiting the historic sites, participants of the FIDF Mission get to visit IDF bases.  On these bases participants get to meet soldiers as well as some of Israel’s top officials.  They get to see first-hand FIDF programs and projects that benefit IDF soldiers across the country. This extraordinary mission to Israel will culminate with a special ceremony marking the powerful bond between the State of Israel and the Jewish community worldwide.  This ceremony will salute the IDF soldiers and commanders, and pay tribute to FIDF’s valued supporters.

More after the jump.

The FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of holocaust survivors as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing and supporting educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs and facilities for the heroic men and women of the IDF. Today, FIDF has more than 120,000 loyal supporters, and 16 regional offices throughout the U.S. and Panama. FIDF proudly offers its support to the IDF soldiers and their families through a variety of unique and innovative programs. These opportunities reinforce the vital bond between the communities in the United States, the soldiers of the IDF, and the State of Israel.

Links:

For more information please contact: Meirav Schwartz, 646-274-9653

Itzik Ashkenazi: An Israeli Wounded Warrior Chef

Itzik Ashkenazi— by Ronit Treatman

“Take one cup of unbleached flour and two eggs. Heap the flour onto a clean surface. Make a hole at the top, so it looks like a volcano.  Pour your eggs into the hole. Start mixing the eggs and flour with one hand. You will need the other hand to prevent the eggs from oozing onto the counter. Once you have incorporated the eggs into the flour, start kneading the dough….”

This is a moment in Itzik Ashkenazi’s current life. He never intended to be a chef, he tells me, as he talks about how he makes fresh pasta.  An electrical engineer by training, he was on duty on a beautiful October day in 1990 on his base near Rosh Pina.  Suddenly, his left leg was shattered by friendly fire. Itzik was rushed to Rambam Hospital.  Fortunately for him, the skillful surgeons who operated on him saved his leg.  His recovery would not have been complete had it not been for the contributions of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and American non-profit organization dedicated to Israeli soldiers’ well-being.  Physical therapy and other amenities sponsored by the FIDF helped rehabilitate him. Only an orthopedist would know I was ever injured now,” he tells me.  An unexpected result of the process of healing from the pain and trauma of this injury was that Itzik transformed himself from an electrical engineer into one of Tel Aviv’s most passionate chefs.

More after the jump.  
Once he was honorably discharged from the IDF, Itzik needed time to finish healing. He couldn’t just accept the responsibility of working full time as an electrical engineer somewhere.  He decided to help out in his family’s restaurant, Il Pastaio (The Pasta Maker). His Italian-born mother started Il Pastaio in 1988 as a store selling freshly prepared pasta. Located in a Bauhaus building circa 1939, it was the only place in Israel where fresh pasta was made in the traditional Milanese way.  As the store became more and more successful, Itzik’s family decided to hire an Italian architect to design the the first floor interior to be an authentic, northern Italian restaurant.  

Initially, Itzik helped out with the business side of the enterprise. But he still had to heal from his injuries, both externally and emotionally.  Itzik reached deep inside himself for what he truly loved. He felt the call to be creative with food. Itzik learned how to prepare fresh pasta at the feet of the master: Enzo Dellea, a famous Northern Italian chef and cookbook author. The sensual experience of mixing flour and eggs, kneading the fresh dough, and inhaling its earthy aroma helped repair Itzik’s internal emotional trauma.  Nurturing hungry people with delicious, artisanal food filled him with joy. As part of his healing process, Itzik discovered his true passion.

As he became more accomplished in the kitchen, he reached into his family’s Jewish heritage from Rhodes.  Itzik’s aunt, Matilda Koen-Sarano, wrote a cookbook in Ladino called Gizar Kon Gozo or Cooking with Pleasure.  From this book, he shares with us a recipe that combines his love of preparing fresh pasta with a traditional Sephardic dish called travados, or as he calls them affectionately, travadikos.  The Ashkenazi family prepares travadikos to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  “Travadikos are a mezza luna (half moon) of fresh dough, filled with a mixture of ground nuts.  The filled dough is baked, and then simmered in honey syrup.  Travadikos taste a lot like baklava,” he explains to me.  

Matilda Koen-Sarano’s Travadikos
Adapted from Gizar Kon Gozo

For the dough:

travados 084

Travados

Travados

travados 097

Photos: The Boreka Diary

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder

For the filling:

  • 1-½ cups ground almonds or walnuts
  • ¼ cups sugar

For the syrup:

  • ¾ cup honey
  • ½ cup sugar
  • zest from ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preparation:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dough together.
  2. Allow the dough to rest for two hours.
  3. Mix the ground nuts and sugar.
  4. Mix all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot over a low flame.  Stir until a golden syrup forms.  Keep warm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 356 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Roll out the dough.
  7. Using a wine glass, cut out circles of dough.
  8. Place one teaspoon of filling in each circle of dough.
  9. Fold the dough in half over the filling, and pinch shut to create a mezza luna (half moon).
  10. Bake the trovadikos for 30 minutes.
  11. Remove the trovadikos from the oven and simmer in the syrup for a few seconds.
  12. Remove the trovadikos with a slotted spoon and place them on a large serving platter.
  13. Garnish with a dusting of ground nuts mixed with sugar.

During his hospitalization at Rambam Hospital, Itzik discovered that one of the missions of the FIDF is to rehabilitate wounded soldiers.  They do this through their Strides Program.  “I am very, very fortunate,” Itzik tells me.  “My friends who were injured during combat carry invisible injuries,” he says.  “They can’t sleep at night.  I wish I could help them find something to move them away from what happened to them during their military service.”  As Rosh Hashanah, the time of “teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah,” arrives, please consider helping repair these soldiers’ lives with a contribution to FIDF.  Your gift may even help discover a new culinary genius!

I would like to extend my special thanks to Beit Halochem for connecting me with Itzik Ashkenazi.

Shanah Tovah!

Friends of the IDF: Having An Impact and Changing Lives

— by Ronit Treatman

Have you ever wondered what people talk about in a bomb shelter during a war?  I found out in 1973.   The Yom Kippur War was raging around me.  My father was away, fighting on the Syrian front. In the middle of the night, the air raid sirens were sounded.  My mother, brother, and I stumbled down the stairs to the bomb shelter of our building.  Our neighbors were having a tempestuous discussion about the stupidity of the design of our air raid retreat.  One neighbor had the last word when he commented, “even if we survive a direct hit, our building’s propane tank is here with us.  It will explode, killing us instantly!”  I sat with them, watching over my infant brother and thinking about my dad.  We had no way to communicate with him.  I also thought about another neighbor who was on the front, a fighter pilot.  The next day we got the terrible news: our fighter pilot had been shot down.  He was killed in action.  His father, Albert, owned the grocery store on our street.  I adored Albert!  One month later, his grocery store was locked, and a notice had been glued to the door.  Albert had died.  “Of a broken heart,” I was told.  “Once his son died, he had nothing to live for anymore.”  At that moment, my five-year-old heart shattered as well.  I never forgot Albert or his brave son.  A few months later the Yom Kippur War ended, and my family was sent to Venezuela.

More after the jump.
Thirteen years later, I left my family behind, and flew fifteen hours from Venezuela to Israel.  I did this so I could volunteer to serve in the IDF as a Lone Soldier.  At the concluding ceremony of my basic training, tears rolled down my cheeks as I swore over my Uzi machine gun and Torah to protect the State of Israel.  Albert and his son were in my thoughts.

It has been twenty-four years since I was honorably discharged from my military duty.  I have been busy with studies, building a family, and living my life.  My oldest daughter, Devorah, was born and raised in Philadelphia.  This year, she spent a semester in Israel at the Alexander Muss High School.  It was a transformational experience!  “Everything I did was full of meaning and purpose!” she shared with me.  As a result, she has decided to volunteer to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Devorah will also be a Lone Soldier.  She will be in good company.  According to Major General (Ret.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, national director of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, last year there were 2,500 lone soldier volunteers in the IDF.  Forty percent of them came from North and South America, forty percent from the former Soviet Union, and the rest from Europe.  

As I proudly watch Devorah make her own choices and take off, I want to do something to help her and all the other soldiers in Israel.  What can I do when I live in Philadelphia?  I can support them through the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. The FIDF is an American nonprofit organization whose mission is to help Israeli soldiers, and the families of fallen soldiers.  It is a community of Zionists who are passionate about Israel.  

The FIDF supports bereaved families by sponsoring summer camps, trips, workshops, and gifts for widows and orphans.  Lone Soldiers are helped with FIDF sponsored flights home to visit their family.  IDF soldiers who serve in combat units and demonstrate financial need are offered scholarships for a college education in Israel.  The FIDF is paying for medical training in its IDF Medical School.  Clubs, libraries, gyms, canteens, synagogues, and well-being centers are being built by the FIDF for soldiers to enjoy during their military service.

Our local Philadelphia chapter of the FIDF just elected its first board.  There are many opportunities to be a part of this community.  The FIDF is the perfect organization for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah project.  The Young Leadership Division is appropriate for college graduates.  It is a great place for those who enjoyed the Birthright program, and wish to maintain and strengthen their connection to Israel. During the course of the year the FIDF sponsors opportunities to meet with Israeli soldiers, enjoy IDF musical ensemble performances, gala dinners, and missions to Israel.  You can check their website to see what appeals to you most.  I intend to become very involved in this organization.  I invite you join me.

Friends of the IDF befriends Lone Soldiers

Last week, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces began a new tradition here in Philadelphia with their first annual Gala. Everyone enjoyed the music under the direction of Udi Bar as well as the drinks and fine food.  

However, the real reason everyone came out was to show their support for the soldiers of the IDF.  Their jobs is to look after Israel, and it is the job for the Friends of the IDF to look after them.

Keynote speaker former Governor Ed Rendell explained that he and his brother Robert were not raised in a religious home, but his father told them to remember that they are Jews, to remember how Jews have been treated over the years, and to support Jewish causes like FIDF whenever they could.

Although Rendell has had many titles: Governor of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mayor of Philadelphia and Philadelphia District Attorney, he said the title of which he is most proud is that of 2nd Lieutenant from his service in the reserve from 1968 to 1974.

The Friends of the IDF supports Israeli soldiers in many ways:

  • The IMPACT! program grants full scholarships to soldiers who come from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background and seek a higher education. Each scholarship recipient is required to complete 130 hours of community service annually. IMPACT! Student Maru Gete, an Ethiopian Jewish immigrant, came to tell us how the FIDF allowed him to realize his dream of going to medical school.
  • The Legacy Program supports thousands of widows, orphans and other family members who have suffered the devastating loss of a loved-one fallen during military service. Galit Cochva was on hand to speak courageous of her husband Ron who  died when his helicopter crashed in Lebanon.
  • The Lone Soldier Program supports the 2,800 determined young men and women from all over the world who choose to leave the comfort of their homes and families to travel to Israel, become proud IDF soldiers and make Israel their home. Friends of the IDF is a family to Lone Soldiers who have no family of their own in Israel.


Wynnewood native Shoval Dorani returned to Philadlephia to tell us about her life as a lone soldier and the support she received from the Friends of the IDF.

Here is what she had to say:

Good evening. My name is Shoval Dorani and for the past year I have been serving as a proud lone soldier in Oketz, the independent canine special forces unit of the Israel defense force.

I was born in North Miami Beach, Florida and raised in beautiful Wynnewood, Pennsylvania along with my brother Omri and my sister Liat. I had the privilege of receiving a Jewish Day School education and was raised in a home where the state of Israel was constantly in our hearts and in our minds. My father was born in Israel and my mother has always considered Israel her second home, so we traveled to Israel often. Each time I stepped onto Israel soil, I felt a sense of belonging. I was home.

The remainder of Shoval’s remarks follow the jump.

The summer of 2006, the summer that Gilad Shalit was taken into captivity became a critical turning point in my life. I was a 14 year old attending an all girls summer camp when the Israel Lebanon war broke out. It was that moment that the course of my life would change forever. As the girls were playing in tennis tournaments or having fun on the soccer field, all I could think about was the war and how I wished to be alongside those brave soldiers of the IDF. It was then that I realized upon high school graduation, that I would enlist in the Israel defense forces. My friends could not understand my passion, but it was my dream, one that turned into a reality.

In the summer of 2010, my journey began, one that continues to challenge me both physically and mentally in ways I never thought possible. And while my friends were leaving for college full of dreams and excitement, I chose to leave my family and the comforts of home to travel to Israel and enlist in the Israeli army.

I am currently serving as a lochemet (combat soldier) in the Oketz unit which specializes in training dogs for military purposes. These dogs are highly trained to attack, sniff out hidden explosives or different chemicals as well as being used in search and rescue efforts resulting from earthquakes or other disasters.

I have a beautiful Belgian shepherd named Gula. She is highly trained to sniff out suspicious cars, objects and buildings for weapons and chemicals in order to prevent terrorism from entering the state of Israel.

It was two weeks after my enlistment into Karakal, a combat unit where men and women serve together to protect the southern border of Israel, that we had our gibush. Before joining the army, I knew that my dream was to be a soldier in Oketz. The only way for girls to join Oketz was to pass a ‘gibush,’ a physical and mental test lasting two days. It all began with a hapkatza, the sudden wake up call in the middle of the night. The next eight hours was the physical part of the gibush, where every run, crawl, and jump would determine the next three years of my army service. I gave it my all. During that gibush, I remember asking myself how I was able to continue, but I never gave up, determined to overcome this difficult challenge.

Two long days passed after the Oketz gibush, with every girl as anxious and nervous as I was to hear which girls had made it into this elite unit. After eating our breakfast of white bread, whole avocados, half a banana, and white cheese, all without plates or utensils, we were  told that the girls who did the gibush should stand in a “chet to hear who made it. Some girls began shaking and crying from nerves. As 100 girls stood  silently, one of the commanders stood in the middle of the chet. “I will read the list of 16 girls who made it into Oketz, I do not want to hear any reactions. Stay quiet.” As the names were called, my heart was pounding. I felt a bead of sweat on my forehead, although my entire body was numb from the winter air of the desert. Names were being called, mine not among them, when suddenly, “Dorani, Shoval.” Tears instantly ran down my cheeks. I could not believe what I had heard. MY name!? I made it?! Never before had I felt so accomplished and proud. My dream came true right then and there. My journey as an IDF soldier had just begun.

After six grueling and challenging months of basic training, my beloved Oketz team and I would end our service in Karakal, and begin a new adventure in Oketz. This had been our dream for the past six months, and it was finally here. Getting ready for the ‘masa aliya,’ was an entirely new feeling for us. We had many masaot before, but this masa would bring us to Oketz, our final destination. Our excitement was unavoidable. With all of our equipment on our backs, our weapons tight around our bodies, and our faces fully covered in paint, we were more than ready to begin this journey of 15 kilometers.

Basic training was full of many challenging masaot. One of them in order to receive my tag, another for a diskit cover, a pin for my coomta, and a case for my machsanit. All of these masaot were meaningful and extremely important to me, however the masa aliya to yechidat oketz meant more to me than anything. With much rabak, we all took our places in two lines. Our commander took the lead and we followed.

During the masa, sweating and sleep deprived, I along with the others were determined to succeed. This was my family now and when one was down, we all lent a hand. We had begun this journey together…we would end this journey together.

One cold night during basic training in Karakal, the hour had finally come where we could shower, speak on the phone, and go to sleep in our tents. I quickly ran to organize my things for the shower when I saw a package waiting for me on my bed. My first reaction was that it was probably a mistake and meant for one of the girls in my tent. As one of only two lone soldiers in my unit, it was sometimes difficult to see the Israeli girls getting packages almost every day. They received anything from food, clothes, bedding, and shampoo from their families and friends living in Israel. I was happy to see that the package read my name and inside I found winter socks, a hat, long underwear, a long sleeved shirt, pajama shorts, and a neck warmer. The package included an envelope full of letters from people from all over the world thanking me for leaving my life and my family and friends behind to serve as a lone soldier in the IDF. There was a letter from a woman that especially touched me.

Dear Shoval,

How are you? We hope that you’re not having too hard a time of it. After all, what would we do without you? Because of you, and only you, we are able to live and sleep in peace.

Our dear soldier, please take care of yourself so you can soon be home to your eema and abba. You are our strength. We are proud of you, look up to you, love you.

So take care of yourself and enjoy this package!

With love,

Nancy from Washington, D.C

No words could ever have been more beautiful, more important. I was not alone.

I want to thank each and every one of you in this room for coming tonight in support of the Friends of the Israel Defense Force. You have provided soldiers like me with certain comforts we would not otherwise be receiving. Packages, trips to water parks, and flights to travel and reunite with our families, are just to name a few. My journey has not been an easy one and there have been times of sadness and lonliness, but I made a decision to become a member of the IDF, a decision I will continue to love and be proud of.

Thank you.