On June 8, a long table was set up at the entrance of Elyakim Military Base in Megiddo, located in the Lower Galilee region of Northern Israel. The soldiers and community volunteers immediately jumped into action and passed out 60 pizzas, 120 cans of soda, and 150 ice cream bars – serving more than 150 soldiers currently training at the base. Soldiers promptly followed their orders to relax and enjoy all of their wonderful treats.
They grinned from ear to ear, munched on pizza, sipped cold drinks, enjoyed ice cream, and chatted about their lives. Todah, or thank you, was the one word that was repeated over and over again.
This celebration had strong local ties. Raizel and Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman of Chabad of Peabody graciously offered to donate and sponsor this special event. The soldiers could not stop thanking Chabad of Peabody and the Schustermans for their support. They were all so happy and grateful. They also had quite a lot of fun pronouncing “Peabody.” Chabad of Peabody is a name they will always remember and appreciate.
This past May was very intense and troublesome for those living in Israel and for Jews around the world. Rockets bombarded Southern and Central Israel. There was civil unrest throughout the country.
Rebecca-Gil Spiewak, a Swampscott native, made Aliyah with her family four years ago. Rebecca lives on Kibbutz Ramot Menashe about 15 minutes south of the military base where – despite some tense situations amongst her Arab neighbors – things were relatively quiet.
However, the pain of war and uncertainty was felt throughout the country. Israelis were frightened for their friends and family. Locally, the residents of Megiddo and Yokneam were saddened by the loss of Omar Tabib, an Israel Defense Forces soldier who was killed by an anti-tank missile. He was from Elyakim, just down the road from Rebecca and the military base. A young man and soldier, he was loved by his family, friends, and community.
In times like these, it is not easy to know what to do or how to help. Rebecca decided she wanted to make a difference. It all started with a simple idea: How can we contribute to our local base in our community and support our soldiers? How do we bring about a smile? The obvious answer was pizza!
Rebecca approached the Israeli Kesher Steering committee of one of the Jewish Agency’s Partnership2gether programs, P2G Yokneam-Megiddo Atlanta-St. Louis, where she is also a committee member, to join her on this project. They immediately began a fundraiser on May 20 to raise money to say thank you to the soldiers on Base Elyakim. The fundraiser was an immediate success. People across Israel and the United States (and many from the North Shore) donated to the special cause.
“We are so grateful for the support that we received to carry out this beautiful mitzvah. Four days later, we filled up one car with 60 pizzas and drinks and headed to the base. There was not one soldier on the base without a huge smile on their face. We are very grateful to take care of our soldiers and thank them for their service and hard work,” said Rebecca.
Then Chabad of Peabody reached out to Rebecca about doing a similar event on the base. The goal was simple: Say thank you and make them feel appreciated and loved. The volunteers were thrilled to be able to do this mitzvah, and support the IDF soldiers who are working so hard to defend the Jewish homeland. The hope is to do another visit in the near future.
“When rockets were raining upon Israel, we discussed amongst ourselves, what could we do to support our holy brothers and sisters in the Holy Land?” said Rabbi Schusterman. “After watching so much horror on social media, we wanted to create some positivity on social media. Working with a former North Shore woman, the idea was born and all we had to do was pay the money and she took care of everything else.
“The smiles are priceless. May our people never have to know from such suffering again.”