I was traveling in the US with my family when Hamas attacked Israel, and, because our flights were canceled, it took us several days to make it home. Miraculously, we all got onto an El-Al flight back to Israel. We were honored to fly with almost one hundred young Israeli reservists who had dropped everything to return home to fight: most of them would go straight to their bases from the airport. I am amazed because these are the exact same scenes my parents told me about during the Yom Kippur war.
Supporting Soldiers and Civilians on the Homefront
Once home, we realized how much better it felt to be here during this crisis – something which must sound strange. It was difficult being in the US where life was continuing as normal while a horrific massacre and war were happening at home. Once in Israel, we discovered an amazing solidarity and unity among the people unlike anything I have ever felt before. Everyone is sharing the same shock and sadness. And everyone is doing what they can to support the soldiers on the front and the southern communities that have been displaced: the blood banks are full, IDF units in the south fighting the terrorist incursion and preparing for a land invasion into Gaza have been overwhelmed with care packages to the point that they are saying, “Don’t bring anymore! We have all we need.”
A Call for Help
At the same time, we have been hearing of needs and shortages in army units called to the northern border, especially in reserve combat units which are lacking some basic essentials. We made a call to our supporters abroad that we want to prepare 400 care packages for these combat units experiencing shortages in basic essentials. Thanks to the support of many who answered the call, we were able to put together 200 care packages with help from volunteers at Tiferet Yeshua. In the same afternoon, a group of several young adult volunteers and I caravanned in our cars to the border with Lebanon in the Upper Galilee: our team had done some investigating through army channels and were connected with a paratroopers platoon that would be grateful for supplies.
A Surprise Welcome on the Lebanon Border
By the time we were ascending the Galilee, it was late in the day and a beautiful red sunset was flaming over the mountains. It was nearly dark when we made it to the paratroopers base at the top of the Galilee. At the main gate of the base, we were met by guards and expected to be told to unload the packages there at the gate so that the soldiers could bring them into the base. However, they warmly welcomed us and let us in – they said it was their first time allowing civilians onto their base! Once inside, we were welcomed by all the soldiers there. The army contact with whom we had coordinated the delivery had said that the platoon would be away at a training exercise until late into the night, so we were surprised then to find the whole platoon there when we arrived.
An Even Greater Surprise
When we began unloading the packages, suddenly I heard a booming voice call out, “Gil Afriat, is that you?” I turned around and saw a dear face I know well: Yehuda Bachana, a leader at Netivya congregation in Jerusalem. Seeing that we had a personal connection with one of their own made our visit with the soldiers of this platoon even warmer and more personable. But the surprises did not end there.
After unloading the packages, the soldiers invited us to sit with them for coffee. When one soldier heard that, in addition to serving at a Messianic Jewish congregation, I work part time as an engineer at Intel, he told me excitedly, “Hey, I work at Intel too!”. When I asked him what engineering group he worked in, it turns out he works in the same group I do, just in a different city, and that he sometimes comes up to our branch to work with our team! At that point, he yelled out to one of his friends, “Hey, get over here!” The friend he introduced me to I recognized: he is a young engineer who recently joined my group at Intel. We talked for a while: he shared their experiences fighting the terrorists in the south before they were transferred to the northern border. We talked about engineering and about God as well. “When this is over,” he said, “let’s have lunch in the cafeteria together.”
In the time we spent on the base with the soldiers, we had wonderful conversations, and many wanted to talk to us about our faith. I am still in awe at the amazing grace God poured out on our visit. One soldier who lives in Tel Aviv told me, “When the war is over, I’m coming to visit you all.” We were invited to stay for dinner (what an honor!), but, because it was late and we still had a long drive back, first making it down the small winding Galilee roads in the dark, we decided it would be best to be on our way.
I am in awe at how God surprised me in so many ways during our trip! We are so honored to be able to serve these amazing soldiers who are giving their all to serve Israel. God also blessed me with so many special personal connections during our visit. Yehuda told me that the soldiers love the things we put into the care packages (protein bars, energy bars, caffeine gel packs, among other items) which are perfect for long strenuous training and days on end combat. I told Yehuda that he will probably have a lot of great opportunities to answer questions about his faith after our visit (each soldier got a care package with a blessing from “Tiferet Yeshua, a Messianic Jewish congregation in Tel Aviv”). We let them know that we want to prepare another 200 packages for them and asked them to update us about their needs.
Sincerest thanks to all those who supported this project “Supporting Our Soldiers”!
Please help us continue to bless and show God’s love to these dear soldiers