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Queens Synagogue to Salute Israel's Lone Soldiers

Former Israeli Ambassador and bestselling author to deliver keynote speech.
By Daniel Perez
First Publish: 5/5/2013, 7:45 AM

Lone soldiers in Jerusalem
Lone soldiers in Jerusalem
Ateret Cohanim

This Sunday, just two nights before Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) -- the holiday when Jews in Israel and around the world celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967—Young Israel of Jamaica Estates (YIJE) will be hosting a very special event to benefit Israel's lone soldiers. Lone soldiers, who number in the thousands, are those servicemen and women of the IDF who do not have parents living in Israel. Roughly 40% of them serve in combat units.

Delivering the keynote address at Sunday night's event—which is sponsored by synagogue members Jacques and Karen Rothschild—will be Ambassador Yehuda Avner. A veteran of Israel's War of Independence, Avner went on to be a key advisor to several Israeli prime ministers and became a distinguished diplomat, having served as the Jewish state's ambassador to Australia and the United Kingdom. In 2010, Ambassador Avner authored "The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership", in which he shares his first-hand experiences working with Israel's political leaders. "The Prime Ministers" has become a bestseller, was named a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and is now being made into two motion pictures: a dramatic adaptation by Crystal City Entertainment, and a documentary by Academy Award-winning Moriah Films. Avner is currently a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a member of the Ambassadorial Appointments Committee.

Proceeds from the upcoming event will go to benefit the Benji Hillman Foundation. Maj. Benji Hillman (HY”D) was a a Company Commander in the elite reconnaissance Egoz unit and tragically fell in action on July 20, 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, only three weeks after his wedding. The late Maj. Hillman, who had made aliyah from the UK with his family in 1983, has been described by those that knew him as “an outstanding leader of men who cared deeply about the soldiers under his command and the Jewish People.” The The Benji Hillman Foundation was established in August 2006 by Benji’s family and close friends in his memory with the aim of continuing Benji’s legacy of caring for lone soldiers, and has built “Habayit shel Benji” (“Benji's House”) as a haven for lone soldiers, in his home town of Ra’anana.

According to those behind the project, Ha’bayit shel Benji is “a warm home and guidance center for lone combat soldiers and soldiers from underprivileged families,” for use during and immediately after their service. It will be staffed by a permanent “house mother,” an education/vocation director and volunteers and will provide accommodations for up to 50 soldiers and a variety of personal services.

The event is scheduled for Sunday night, May 5 at 7:30 PM. YIJE is located at 83-10 188th Street, Jamaica Estates, NY, 11423.

For more information, visit the YIJE website at YIJE.org, or call (718) 479-7500.