Hundreds of IDF soldiers descended on the southern city of Sderot to rehabilitate public parks in neglected neighborhoods.
The soldiers, hailing from the counterterrorism unit, the Gaza Division, the Givati Brigade, and Border Police, arrived in Sderot on Wednesday to give back to the very citizens who they protect on a day-to-day basis.
One of those people, Claudine Ivgy (75) has lived in the city for six decades but the neglected park in her neighborhood has meant her grandchildren couldn't play outside when they visited her.
"When I saw them fixing up the public park I couldn't resist myself, I called up my grandchildren and told them I have a surprise for their next visit!"
At 9 am on Wednesday, Sderot mayor Alon Davidi gathered the dedicated troops that volunteered for the event organized by the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers. Davidi congratulated the soldiers and gave the "command": "Hit the road, because thanks to you Sderot residents will receive a cleaner and more pleasant environment."
With hoes, rakes, painting tools and good will, the soldiers raided the rehabilitation areas in the city's public parks. 20-year-old R, a fighter in the IDF's Lotar unit who is also from Sderot, was surprised to discover that he is going to spend the day close to home rather than in hard training at base. "I was filled with excitement," said R. "This is my home, the place that I belong to and I am proud to give back to the people I grew up with," he added.
During the day, the soldiers, alongside students from Sderot schools, restored public areas which included cleaning, painting poles and benches, setting up synthetic lawns and planting new gardens. The neighborhood residents were watching from the balconies and when they saw the amazing results went out on the streets and offered the soldiers food and beverages as well as warm hugs.
One of the city's senior citizens, 90-year-old Alice Gerbi was waiting for this day for many years. "All these nice soldiers that were working here today, I now call them family," said Gerbi.
The initiative in Sderot was organized with the cooperation of Sderot municipality and Shikun & Binui company which adopted IDF Lotar unit as part of Adopt a Fighter project. Business sector companies interested in joining the project and adopt combat units are welcome to call this number 072-2702092.