Ten thousand of Israel’s “lone soldiers” (men and women from outside of Israel who volunteer to serve in the Israel Defense Forces) and soldiers in need received gift vouchers worth approximately NIS 6.2 million ($1.6 million) as a Hanukkah present thanks to a joint project between The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), and the Israeli clothing chain H&O. This is the third year in a row that this worthy project has existed.
To commemorate the holiday of Hanukkah and the launching of this year’s project, IFCJ, FIDF, and H&O held a ceremony at an R&R center in Ashkelon, Israel, on December 16, 2009. Present at the ceremony were Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President of IFCJ; Colonel (Res.) Rafi Aviram, FIDF representative; and Nitzan Hadas, President of the H&O chain.
This ceremony coincided with a week of R&R for hundreds of soldiers, which gave the event a unique feel, as donors, guests, speakers, soldiers, and military personnel all mingled together to partake in a special evening.
The night featured dinner, entertainment, an emotional candle-lighting ceremony, and an interview with IFCJ Founder and President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein for the IDF Radio station that broadcast the ceremony live.
Through this project, about ten thousand soldiers receive Hanukkah gift vouchers for purchases at the Israeli clothing chain H&O, which has stores across all of Israel. Combat soldiers and combat-support soldiers (both lone soldiers and soldiers in need) receive cards worth NIS 1,000 ($260), and the rest of the lone soldiers and soldiers in need receive vouchers worth NIS 400 ($105). The soldiers can use these vouchers for purchases any time through May 31, 2010.
Representatives of the organizations sponsoring this project commented on the importance of recognizing and giving back to the men and women soldiers who protect Israel.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Founder and President of IFCJ, said, “IFCJ seeks to help the citizens of Israel in any and every way it can, and one of the ways we do that is by supporting Israel’s soldiers. IFCJ’s donors consider it an honor to support these men and women who put their lives on the line defending the Jewish state.”
Major General (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, national director of FIDF: “FIDF is happy to be a partner in the distribution of Hanukkah Gift Vouchers to lone soldiers and soldiers in need.
"Our organization helps IDF soldiers through a plethora of educational programs, care for the continuation of their education—including the possibility of higher education for combat soldiers who could not otherwise afford it— and thus contributing to the shaping of the character and security of Israel. FIDF sees a privilege in the role of embracing the IDF soldiers with support throughout the year and in worthy projects such as this one.”
Nitzan Hadas, president of H&O chain, said that “H&O is proud to be a partner in this blessed project of dressing thousands of lone soldiers and soldiers in need. We are partners in this project for the third year in a row, and feel great satisfaction in seeing these soldiers in our stores across the country as they excitedly purchase their new clothes.”
IFCJ is the largest philanthropic organization in Israel. To date, IFCJ has donated about one billion shekels (more than $260 million) to different projects in the areas of aliyah, absorption, wellbeing, and security in time of need.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has been doing this important work for more than 25 years, strengthening Israeli society by raising money from Christians around the world who love and support Israel.