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The Israeli Community’s Response to Supporting Soldiers and Families

Since October 2023, individuals across Israel have rallied in remarkable ways to support their communities, soldiers, and families affected by the ongoing conflict. From young students to the elderly, the collective effort has been heartening, with initiatives ranging from meal trains and care packages to heartfelt messages of encouragement.

In a notable shift to meet the needs of kosher-observing soldiers and evacuees, businesses, including restaurants that previously did not offer kosher options, have adapted their services. Over a hundred establishments have joined the cause, donating tens of thousands of meals with the support of volunteers and generous donations. Bodega, for example, alone has served over 10,000 meals to soldiers since the start of the war as part of Operation We Are Family, with each burger being secured in bags decorated by Israeli school children for even more of a tender touch. Such efforts, made possible with donations and assistance from volunteers of all ages, not only aid those directly affected by the conflict, but also supports the restaurants in continuing their operations during these challenging times.

Amidst this backdrop of widespread community support, initiatives like Smiles for the Kids, led by Chef Yehudah Jacobs, stand out for their unique contributions. Based in Modiin, Israel, Smiles for the Kids orchestrates a variety of activities designed to uplift soldiers and their families. These include carnivals, drum circles, candy platters for soldiers’ families, cooking classes, and BBQ events. Each activity is a testament to the community’s resolve to provide comfort and sustenance in times of need. The meals served are specifically tailored to be nutritious and satisfying, directly responding to the soldiers’ needs and preferences.

Parallel to Smiles for the Kids, Chef Yehudah Jacobs also spearheaded Smiles for Chayalim. This grassroots initiative aims to bring happiness and comfort to soldiers (Chayalim) by providing essential items ranging from protective gear to snacks and even spa treatments for rest and recovery periods. The initiative underscores the importance of community support in sustaining the morale and well-being of soldiers stationed away from home for extended periods.

Smiles for Chayalim and similar efforts have also provided a lifeline to local businesses impacted by the conflict. By partnering with caterers, party planners, and other vendors, these initiatives not only deliver joy and comfort to soldiers but also help sustain small businesses during economic downturns. This synergy between community support and donations worldwide exemplifies a holistic approach to aiding those affected by the conflict.

The community’s response to the challenges posed by the ongoing conflict highlights the strength and resilience of the Israeli spirit. Through concerted efforts and a shared commitment to support one another, Israel continues to demonstrate unwavering solidarity with its soldiers and affected families, ensuring that no one is left behind during these trying times.

Individuals looking to contribute to these causes can do so by volunteering their services directly, or through financial donations. These contributions are crucial in maintaining and expanding the support network for evacuees, soldiers, and their families until all can be safely reunited.

Images and details via: Chef Yehudah Jacobs who is also a contributor to YeahThatsKosher (@theisraelifoodie), and @getbodega