Passover is a joyous time for Israel’s soldiers. Many are on leave from the army and return home to celebrate the traditional seder meal. However, holiday joy is tempered with worry and stress for those soldiers who come from families that struggle financially. While on base they would be treated to a delicious seder meal by the army, at home the situation is more difficult, with food needing to be shared with parents, grandparents and siblings. Additionally, “lone soldiers” (orphans, those who immigrated to Israel alone, and anyone else who for whatever reason receives no financial support from their parents) also struggle financially and have trouble arranging and paying for their holiday meals while on leave from the army.
To address this situation, every year before Passover (and before Rosh Hashana as well), hundreds of such soldiers are provided with large food packages by Yashar LaChayal, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid for soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Besides basic food supplies to help the soldiers and their families with preparing for the holiday meals, the Passover packages also contain special additions for the seder: grape juice, decorative grape juice cups, Passover cake and cookies, matzah and Haggadahs.
On April 15 in Ma’ale Adumim, Yashar LaChayal’s volunteers put together food packages for 850 soldiers from over a dozen units throughout the Israel Defense Forces. The units included the Golani, Nachal and Kfir Brigades, Home Front Command, the Netzach Yehuda Battalion (a special unit populated by soldiers from ultra-Orthodox backgrounds), Egoz Special Forces, the Iron Dome unit and Arayot HaYarden, one of Israel’s first coed infantry units. Throughout the day, representatives of each unit arrived to pick up food packages for those in their units who will benefit from them. In addition, assistance was provided to bereaved families of soldiers who fell in Israel’s defense.
The food-packaging event was supported by the municipality of Ma’ale Adumim and was attended by Mayor Benny Kashriel. Besides individual donors from around the world, large quantities of the food packages were sponsored by organizations and synagogues that support Israel’s soldiers through Yashar LaChayal. The synagogues included these from New Jersey: Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, the Young Israel of East Brunswick and the East Brunswick Jewish Center.
For more information about Yashar LaChayal and its other projects that support Israel’s soldiers, visit www.yasharlachayal.org and facebook.com/yasharlachayal.
By Amichai Bacharach