July 23, 2014

With rockets raining down on Israel and Israeli ground forces in Gaza trying to eliminate, or at least reduce, the ability of Hamas to continue its attacks, it’s hard for those of us in the U.S. who care about Israel to know what to do.

My inbox is filled with requests for donations from various aid organizations, asking for money to help the IDF and Israeli civilians, as well as calls to support Israeli hospitals and medical organizations, which treat both Israelis and Gazans alike. I’m sure money is needed, and can be put to good use. It’s just that sending a check feels so impersonal, and it’s impossible to say exactly how my money would be used.

There is, however, the son of members of our congregation who made aliyah and is now serving in the IDF, in the Negev. His name is Caleb. As the situation began to escalate in Israel, one of our rabbis, Michael Lezak, published Caleb’s address in our weekly synagogue email, and encouraged congregants to send him chocolate to let him know we care about him.

Now, sending chocolate to the Negev in July seems like a foolish thing to do. I wonder how it’s supposed to survive its journey in hot trucks in the U.S., let alone a ride through the desert in Israel. There’s also this weird disconnect in time. If you send a package that the USPS says will take 6 to 10 business days to get to Israel, you don’t know whether the fighting will be over by the time it gets there.

Still, I like the care package idea, so I went to the store in search of candy. I picked out non-meltable treats, all with a hechsher, so Caleb and his friends could enjoy it whether or not they keep kosher.

For those of you sending your kids to college this year, keep in mind that when Israelis graduate from High School, they go into the IDF, rather than straight into college. A lot of those serving are quite young, including 18- and 19-year-olds, some of whom have probably never spent much time away from home before.

So candy is a good start, but it didn’t feel like enough. I also put together a package with some nerf balls, yo-yos, a cribbage set and the like. Because these (not-quite-kids) young adults probably could use some recreational activities to get their mind off everything that’s going on around them.

And regardless of age, everyone in a war zone could use a little love from home. So I brought some note cards to Torah Study, and invited everyone to write a note to Caleb which I could include in a care package with the candy, toys and games.

So, if you’re not a member of a congregation or you don’t know someone with a kid in the IDF, please show your support of Israel by making a donation to a worthy organization. They help to take care of all sorts of important needs for soldiers and civilians. But if you do know someone, even peripherally, you can also make a huge difference by sending a care package, or two, or three. There is nothing quite like a personal human touch.

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