An Overwhelming Display of Support and Affection…

An overwhelming display of support and affection is what our wounded Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and our Chabad Terror Victims Project staff, felt throughout our entire stay in the New York area which was hosted by Rabbi Uriel & Shevi Vigler and the Chabad Israel Center of the upper East Side.

IMG_2387.JPGEvery person we met, every trip we went on, every meal we ate – everywhere we were met with warmth, with respect, with joy, with such total and complete friendship, sincerity and kindness that it was truly hard for our soldiers to depart. They felt to a person that they were leaving behind deeply caring friends who they would truly miss. 

As the suitcases were pulled out and filled with souvenirs of our amazing time, as we packed and prepared to return to Israel, our soldiers were exhausted yet exhilarated. 

They were filled with the excitement of all that they had seen over the past ten days, all the experiences they had lived through, all the wonderful people they had met, from those in the Upper East Side Jewish community who were the hosts of the trip, to the complete strangers who stopped them on the street to tell them how proud they were of them and of Israel. 

We can’t begin to tell you how many times strangers approached us as we walked the streets of New York. It seemed that people went out of their way to come up to our soldiers. They clearly gave the impression that they were truly in awe of them and that it was a privilege and an honor to meet them. 

And just as we were sad to leave our new friends behind, they found our leave-taking equally poignant. In the short space of ten days, we had made a moving and significant journey together. We had forged new and lasting friendships that would surely transcend the thousands of miles between the United States and Israel. Friendships that would live on in hearts and minds in Israel and in the U.S.

Shortly before we left, Rabbi Mutty Fogelman of Chabad of Israel and Director of the Chabad Terror Victims Project in the United States, gathered everyone together for one final surprise.

A dear friend, who wished only to be known as “Alon”, had sentIMG_2414.JPG an IPod for each soldier as a farewell gift. For our soldiers this was like the icing on the cake. It culminated ten days of deeply deserved rest and relaxation and inspiration. It is hard to describe how excited and grateful they were to Alon for this wonderful surprise. 

Rabbi Menachem Kutner of the Chabad Terror Victims Project, who had accompanied the soldiers to the United States, said: “The overwhelming display of support and affection that these soldiers felt from people like Alon and so many others sent them back to Israel with confidence and resolve to heal and return to their place in Israeli society with pride and joy.”

And Rabbi Fogelman, representing those in America, said: “The entire experience humbled us as we spent ten days with these heroes who felt that the sacrifices they made were, as they put it, ‘just doing their job’. To a person they said they would do it all over again and I cannot begin to tell you how this touched our hearts and our souls.”

IMG_2404.JPGAs the plane lifted off the tarmac and rose into the sunset, there were not a few tears of emotion on the ground and in the plane. This was a trip that changed lives – everywhere. We thank everyone involved at both ends, from the bottom of our hearts.