Englewood, NJ—On Wednesday, October 21, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, an organization that raises funds for wellbeing and education programs, including scholarships, that benefit Israeli soldiers, invited two Israeli soldiers to come to the house of Aliza and Joshua Schwalbe where they hosted a parlor meeting. The FIDF New Jersey Chapter deals primarily with assisting soldiers financially, supporting lone soldiers, giving care to wounded veterans, helping the families of fallen soldiers, and sending care packages to soldiers. They are often referred to as the “Lone Soldier Chapter” of the FIDF organization.
About 50 people attended the meeting, which began with introductory remarks from host Joshua Schwalbe. “In these dark times, the army is our only beacon of light. Threats are unfortunately daily occurrences, and FIDF lets soldiers know that they are not alone,” he said. The director of the New Jersey Region of FIDF, Howard Gases, then spoke about several FIDF programs, and introduced the two speakers, Corporal Aliza and Sergeant Elad.
Corporal Aliza, a lone soldier who made aliya from Philadelphia, earned her degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Temple University before anti-Semitism on campus sparked her desire to make aliyah. After making aliyah at 23, “[She] thought it would be important to serve in the army like any other citizen of Israel.” Currently, she is an armored corps instructor, and checks that soldiers can apply their study materials in tanks. “It’s important to have a strong Jewish presence outside of the state. We appreciate it to the moon and back,” she said.
The other soldier who spoke was Israeli native Sergeant Elad. He enlisted in the Givati Brigade and after eight months was placed on the Ramallah line as a fighter, and was chosen to be a squad commander and fought in Operation Protective Edge. On July 19, while attempting to enter Gaza, he was shot at, and a bullet entered the back of his head behind his left ear and came out through his left eye. After more than 10 months in the hospital, Elad is still receiving treatments but has been doing better.
Both soldiers were thankful for FIDF who has helped them with their transition of entering the army. Recently, FIDF sent 18 bar-mitzvah age children who have lost siblings or parents in the IDF, to summer camp. They have also given scholarships to soldiers to help them pursue higher education. New Jersey has many lone soldiers in Israel, whose parents attend the annual Gala that FIDF hosts. The FIDF NJ Annual Tribute dinner will be on Monday, November 23, 6:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel. To support Israeli soldiers and the FIDF organization, visit the FIDF website, www.fidf.org.
By Amanda Leifer