The first time I told someone about Yad Eliezer's Holiday Program for IDF Soldiers, they looked at me, confused. "What does the program do?"
"It's an amazing program that helps poor soldiers with money for yom tov expenses--helping them buy food for the Chagim and for Pesach" I answered. "Yad Eliezer raises $250,000 dollars in aid-which gets matched to $500,000 - and distributes it to thousands of soldiers as gift cards. They use them at the supermarket so they can buy whatever they need-it's really incredible."
She stopped, thought for a second and asked,
"There are poor soldiers?"
Ofir is one of four children. His parents divorced when he was little, and his mother raised him and his sisters on her own. It was extremely difficult for her, she struggled, working as a cleaner, a babysitter and at other odd jobs throughout the years just to keep her family fed and provide a roof over all their heads.
In his teen years Ofir worked at whatever jobs he could find, in order to help his mother with expenses for their home. And when it was time to join the IDF, he knew that his absence from his family and his lack of income would hit his mother and his younger sisters, hard. Ofir’s army service in the paratroopers unit was exhausting but whenever he managed to get a day off, even an evening off, he grabbed the opportunity to do a few hours of work, and make whatever money he could. It continued to alleviate some of his mother’s stress.
But COVID 19 put an end to that. Any part time jobs Ofir had previously been able to pick up (usually at a restaurant or an event hall) were lost, and he scrambled, unsuccessfully, to find something else. In the meantime, the situation in his home was directly affected. Bills became harder and harder to pay, even down to grocery expenses for Shabbos and yom tov.
City: Petach Tikvah
Elad comes from a loving, stable, supportive home. His parents, Ariel and Sara, work as a driver and an employment counselor, respectively. Elad has 6 siblings.
After serving for several months as a stellar soldier in the Handasa Kravi unit (Combat Engineering Corps), Elad began studying in an officer’s training course. In 2014 Tzuk Eitan (Operation Protective Edge) interrupted the course, and Elad was sent to Gaza to infiltrate & destroy terror tunnels that led into Israel. The fighting was intense & fierce, many of his friends were severely injured. Some were killed. Elad was injured as well and it took months of painful, difficult & expensive therapy to get back to where he had been.
Elad has been having a much harder time recuperating emotionally, though. To this day, he suffers from extreme PTSD. He can rarely leave the house, and if he does he can’t travel under a bridge or through a tunnel. He cannot tolerate loud noises, he can’t work. He rarely eats and regularly experiences debilitating panic attacks.
The lives of Elad’s family members have been drastically altered by his experience. Ariel and Sara have spent years trying to get proper care for their son, with tens of thousands of shekels in medical bills-therapies, rehab and counseling appointments weighing them down. Both parents were forced to reduce their working hours due to their need to accompany Elad to his appointments, to try and save him. This last year, Ariel lost his job completely due to the pandemic. The situation in their home, to this day, is strained-so much so that daily expenses are overwhelming. They can't make ends meet, and yom tov costs are out of reach.
Ofir and Elad’s stories are just two stories of two struggling IDF soldiers.
But there are thousands more, with each one’s details a bit different from the next, yet one detail in common: they’re suffering terribly.
You may not read about them in the news or on social media but these men and women are there, just trying to get by one day at a time.
We can’t help them with all they’re going through, but we can do something-one important thing; make Pesach more enjoyable, more celebratable, for them and their families.
We can bring them a feeling of freedom at least, this Zman Cheiruteinu.
To help soldiers in need, just like Ofir and Elad, please donate to our Holiday Program for IDF Soldiers.