Anglos Lead Campaign to 'Help Our Soldiers Help Our Boys'
As the search for the three kidnapped Israeli teens - Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Sha'ar - looks set to continue into its sixth day, an initiative by a small group of Israeli activists is enabling Israelis and others from around the world to turn their concern and solidarity into practical action, to help in the search for the boys.
The Help Our Soldiers Help Our Boys campaign is being held in conjunction with United Jerusalem Party of veteran Jerusalemite and local councilman Aryeh King, and aims to provide support for the thousands of servicemen and women involved in the determined but exhausting task of scouring the Hevron region in Judea for any sign of the boys and their abductors.
"People around the world wanted the chance to have a direct hand in helping support the troops who are looking for our boys," explains Ziva Glanz, who helped spearhead the initiative. "They wanted to be able to 'do something,' and as soon as the Jewcer campaign began, the glory of the nation and friends of Israel was apparent. It was all we could do just to keep up. The response has been the kind-hearted, loving, embrace of a response that you would expect from the Nation of Israel, and their many friends."
After just a few short days, Help the Soldiers Help Our Boys has raised more than $4,500 towards providing hot food, towels, toothpaste and other essentials to the roughly 3,000 soldiers in the Hevron region, who are spending long days and night out in the field, in dangerous and stressful conditions.
In less than three days they have distributed 900 bottles of water and other drinks; 440 kilos of borekas and baked goods; hundreds of "snack bags"; 100 kilos of popcorn; dozens of lasagnas and hot dishes; as well as a welcome 1,800 ices and 1,600 ice coffees for soldiers operating in the sweltering heat.
They have also begun distributing other essentials such as shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and sunglasses.
Coordinators also arranged for the communal swimming pool in the nearby Jewish town of Kiryat Arba to open and provided hundreds of towels to let soldiers shower. "Most of them hadn't showered since Friday!"
It all began with a simple idea.
"Like everyone else in the country I was very concerned with what was going on," Glanz said.
But, not content with simply voicing her solidarity and watching nervously for developments, she reached out to Ofer Ohana, the head of security in the Hevron region and a personal acquaintance, to ask if there was any practical help she could offer.
"I said to him - what can we do?" she recalls.
"He said we have thousands of soldiers here who were brought in so hastily for the search. About 3,000 in 30 hours - there was no warning.
"They're living in makeshift conditions, eating tuna for breakfast, lunch and supper... lying in the field basically with nothing."
So Glanz started an online campaign, expecting only to attract friends and family, to "boost morale and give a little love and support for the soldiers coming in" by providing snacks and small bags of essentials to some of the soldiers taking part in the search.
But the campaign mushroomed beyond her wildest dreams, and soon she was inundated with offers of help and donations.
The outpouring of support was so great that people began asking for a place in Jerusalem to drop off their donations.
Local politicians have started taking note as well, and support just keeps on building.
"I though it was a fantastic idea and one that truly speaks to our party’s purpose of working to unite the various factions within the city," said United Jerusalem's City Council representative Aryeh King, who also heads the Defense portfolio for the capital. "At times like this, we all need to come together in support."
Glanz said the project's beginnings were also significant, in that the it was initiated and is being led by members of Israel's "Anglo" community.
"Unfortunately, despite our incredible talent you find that the Anglo community don't usually see themselves as leaders... they don't organize as much as they could always or take a leadership role
"What's significant here is that there's an Anglo-run campaign, and it was so successful and gained so much traction that you have people like (Jerusalem Mayor) Nir Barkat and Aryeh King who want to be a part of his - this Anglo campaign ended up leading the native-born Israelis!"
She said the initiative exhibited how "we can also be leaders here, we can also make a difference."
"Obviously, it's a side point to the real issue here," she hastens to add - namely, supporting our troops in their efforts to find the boys. "But hopefully it's a turning point - and may it serve as a merit for us to celebrate soon with good news!"
All photos credited to Ziva Glanz.