Delivering Joy

Sometimes the unexpected turns out to be better than the expected.

Jonathan C. was on base for Purim. In 2015 he left his hometown in New Jersey to join the IDF as a lone soldier in the Kfir brigade. He isn’t an Israeli citizen, yet he chose to serve and defend the country he now calls home. Jonathan knew that by enlisting he’d be hundreds of miles away from family, friends and the familiarity he was used to. The knowledge of what you’re getting yourself into doesn’t make the daily grind any easier. When Purim came around, it felt like any other Thursday until Chayal el Chayal drove up to bring the joy and festivities to hundreds of IDF soldiers’ in the same boots as he.

“I felt like my parents came to visit me, you don’t understand how excited I was… My Mifaked [commander] started yelling at me but I didn’t care! Chayal el Chayal was here!”

Hundreds of years ago, one man chose to destroy a nation. Today a nation stands and proudly defends its people from the Haman’s of today. The secret to their perseverance is their unity. They don’t watch from the sidelines, they give up everything for their brothers beside them. Not only do they know Am Yisroel Chai, they live it.

What better time to show our appreciation than now?

In 2014, Chayal el Chayal, the IDF Lone Soldiers Home, began the IDF Purim Project with the goal of creating and delivering 3,000 Mishloach Manot to soldiers throughout Israel. “On Purim, when you’re stuck on base, you’re also a lone soldier!” director Ari Abramowitz told the soldiers as he handed out the home-made packages.

The weeks leading up to Purim were filled with boxes of nosh, dozens of volunteers and hours of logistical planning. Communities and schools worldwide joined in to make the program a success. Addi and Ariella, volunteers from a seminary in Jerusalem, came to make hamantashen, pack Mishloach Manot and deliver them to bases. “Seeing the reactions of these chayalim [soldiers] were priceless. From base to base, the chayalim grew happier and happier. It brought smiles to their faces to see that Am Yisroel had not forgotten about them.”

Each Mishloach Manot was filled with an instant soup, energy drink, chocolates, hamantash, snacks and letters from children around the world. The joy that was seen upon receiving the packages was worth every penny, every minute and every morsel of energy invested. Some volunteers went around to bases the entire Wednesday, arriving in Jerusalem at 5 am, only to recharge their batteries for a few minutes, re-pack their cars and head out again at 8 am. It’s all in a day’s work — it may not be easy, but for Chayal el Chayal, it’s necessary.

Sariba F., a lone soldier from Iowa serving in the Karkal unit, put it in simple terms. “Chayal el Chayal showed up and the fact that we hadn’t showered in days, that we had eaten sand-filled meals all week, and that we hadn’t slept more than a couple of hours each night suddenly didn’t matter. Because for a few minutes, we had Purim.”

With 7 cars, 27 hours of visiting over 59 bases, and 3,000 Mishloach Manot later, Purim was just starting in Jerusalem!

Thursday night was filled with music, singing and dancing. 10 Megillah readings, a barbecue and festive Purim seudah were all part of the schedule. Friday’s meal went into Shabbat with 200 soldiers in attendance coming in for a lively Shabbat meal, to grab a shot and celebrate the holiday with friends.

And now, on to Pesach!