Sometimes a war or another type of national disaster breaks out and the reaction is intense and immediate. Everyone mobilizes to support the cause and huge sacrifices are made. And then, over time, the enthusiasm starts to wane until it eventually dissolves into a thing of the past.
Israel’s current four-month war with Hamas is the opposite of that rule. If anything, the outstanding support and encouragement the world Jewish community has shown the IDF has been nothing short of miraculous and continues to grow in intensity.
The other night, I received an invitation to visit what appeared to be an ordinary warehouse here in the Five Towns. But inside, hundreds of duffel bags and cartons filled with military fatigues and cold weather gear were stacked inside, waiting to be shipped. At first glance, the contents appeared to be the type of gear that could withstand any kind of weather condition no matter where in the country the troops are stationed in this long, drawn out war against Hamas.
War requires that your ground troops are properly cared for during the times they are on the battlefield hunting down vicious terrorists, or withstanding the rigors of urban warfare in the “urban jungle” that is Gaza. Here in the States or in other Jewish communities around the world, we cannot provide the soldiers with tanks, rockets, guns, or ammunition. But we can make sure that the brave fighters are properly outfitted and eating well.
To that end, one man is leading the charge. Moshe Bodner, a resident of the Five Towns, is quite frankly, one of the unsung heroes of Israel’s war on Hamas. It was last Sunday night in this large storage room where, in addition to the cartons and duffel bags, about a hundred chairs were set up for a group of invitees to hear two speakers talk about the need for communities like ours to be involved in this current war.
One of the speakers, former IDF soldier, Achiya Klein, served in the IDF’s elite Engineering Corps. In 2013, while in Gaza on a tunnel mission, a booby trapped-bomb exploded, leaving him permanently blind. He returned to his unit after rehab and now partners with weapons manufacturers on innovations to benefit soldiers in battle.
Also at the event Sunday night was Chaya Cohen, an educator who experienced the October 7 tragedy firsthand while visiting her in laws in Kfar Maimon.
The fact is that everyone has their own distinct relationship with October 7.
Today, four months later, these experiences have translated into various levels of involvement for everyone in Jewish communities around the world. And there is still much more to be done.
One of the unending aspects of this type of war set-up is the constant need of ancillary type of equipment that makes the methodical grind of life in the field bearable, especially for reservists who have been called up to serve. If you look through the Israel Chesed Center Warehouse in Valley Stream, you will see all the careful planning and consolidation there in front of your eyes, waiting to be shipped.
Napoleon famously quipped that an army marches on its stomach. Yet it also comes down to simple things like thermal underwear, socks, sweatshirts, boots, moisture-wicking undershirts, and so on down the line. You might wonder why a fighting force like the IDF needs folks in the Five Towns or Boca Raton to send socks to their people on the front lines fighting for civility and humanity?
It’s a tough question with a difficult answer. The fact is that Israel is a tiny country with a small population with a huge need for manpower to fight for its life against so many who oppose her for no sane reason.
For Moshe Bodner, the decision came immediately after October 7 when his son, who was in Israel, called him to alert him to what had happened. Most of us reacted with stunned disbelief. It was a vicious, out of the blue, unexpected attack that shocked us out of our complacency and opened our eyes to the existential threat that still continues to haunt Israel to this very day.
Moshe’s reaction was to do what he could to mobilize support. What Moshe and his team have accomplished in these last few months is astounding. The effort, which continues day and night, will reach its crescendo with an IDF Unity Shabbat in the Five Towns to be held February 15 to 18. Please also see information on pages 20 and 21 regarding the Israel Chesed Center and the series of open events celebrating the achdus and efforts of all segments of our community.
According to Moshe, “On Shabbat, we will be hosting around thirty members of the IDF to share with the public their personal experiences while in the field in Gaza. There will be a pop-up store for soldier gear at the Valley Stream location, as well as a tzitzis opportunity, along with the ability to pack care packages, write letters of encouragement to the soldiers, and much more.
“The long Shabbos weekend is about mobilizing a community to be there for the Israeli forces who are literally on the front lines fighting for Israel’s future.”
The weekend of events is being sponsored by a large number of organizations including Community Chest South Shore, Chabad of Hewlett, Young Israel of Lawrence–Cedarhurst, the Five Towns JCC, as well as HAFTR and HALB, in addition to many other organizations and schools. “The Chesed Center serves our community by providing an opportunity for individual families to get involved and support Israel in this current war against Hamas terrorists,” said Cal Nathan, president of the Community Chest South Shore. “By building the center and giving the local residents the opportunity and venue to buy supplies, pack duffle bags, write letters, and send them off to soldiers fighting the war, Moshe and his team are doing the ultimate chessed. The Community Chest is proud to support this effort which is making such a huge impact in our local community,” he added.
Even though Israel has made a lot of progress in the effort to destroy the Hamas terror group, there is still a great deal more to be done. Moshe Bodner has undertaken a huge responsibility here with tens of thousands of troops in Israel depending on him and the Israel Chesed Center to get them through the winter and beyond.
Then there is the matter of the skimpy rations provided the troops in the field. The other night, Moshe said that in addition to all the great work they do here, they have also set up kitchen facilities to prepare food for the troops when they get a break from the fighting. As I’ve written before, there have been a great number of barbecues taking place in locations both in the north and south.
Moshe says that over the last few months, he has teamed up with a group of Satmar Chassidim in Israel to prepare some 300 meals a day for the military when they first started operation, to the present, where they are now producing roughly 16,000 meals per day for the troops.
This breathtaking tale is a story of perseverance, kindness, unity, and success. Look what we can do when we join forces together. There are few words that can successfully describe the essence of this enormous effort. So, let’s say it this way—Am Yisrael Chai!
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.