Israeli commandos from Squadron 13 took a little time off from some of its tougher activities to participate this week in the OU Israel Center’s “Still the Wind” project in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem.
Representatives of the U.S.-based Orthodox Jewish organization said they had been told to pass on “warm hugs” from all of its 1,000 congregations in North America.
The project, which began in the year 2000, hosts as many as 30,000 Israeli soldiers each year from various units in an effort to strengthen their Zionism while expressing support for the IDF. Conducted in Gush Etzion, a region rich in Jewish history, the project is aimed at reinforcing Zionist values and Israeli heritage for participants.
Project manager Rafael Even Danon spoke with the naval commandos, who had just recently returned from a clash with terrorists who had attempted to use a “humanitarian flotilla" to breach the blockade around Gaza. “Support for the fighters is broad and sweeping,” he told them.
Avi Berman, director of the Israel OU Center, also came to offer his praise and thanks to the troops.
“Just after the activities and operations which made such difficult reverberations around the world, it is especially important to show our support and appreciation to the soldiers who fight for all of Israel,” he noted.
During their visit to Gush Etzion, the commandos learned the unique history of the region and participated in discussions on IDF values, such as brotherhood, sacrifice, and dedication. They also heard stories of the heroic acts of past warriors of Israel, beginning with Abraham and King David, up to the fighters of today’s IDF.
The “hug,” said the company commander, was something that gave the troops a major boost, providing extra morale at a time when such strength is needed to face the challenges that lie ahead.