About two months ago I met with a home-town IDF Lone Soldier, Joseph Zwillenberg. We are both Philly kids and grew up in the same Lower Merion community. Being that I’m 15 years his senior, we didn’t exactly hang-out when I was a teenager. After asking him via Facebook if there was anything we could do for him, as we try to help lone soldiers in any way we can, he said, “There actually is, my unit is in desperate need of better gear. If you think it might be possible to raise money to buy us plate carrier vests, Leathermans, or even less expensive items like flashlights or kneepads, that would be absolutely awesome.”
I was surprised, but excited to hear this bold idea. We met in the Coffee Bean on Yaffo St. a few days later and spent the good portion of three hours together. He shared with me some of the most intense army/war stories that I have ever heard about his experience in Tzuk Eitan, the most recent war in Gaza. By then end of the meeting Jo not only convinced me of the importance of this project but we detailed a course of action and that brings us to Joseph’s letter.
But before I disclose the letter with you and ask that you help support this worthy project, I will share with you that we (Eitan and I) spent the day yesterday in Tel Aviv purchasing 5 plate carrier vests! While we have not quite received the funds for 5 vests, we felt like it was important to jump in and get things going before I leave for my trip. It was quite an experience putting on the new, light weight vests with the protective plates. SEE Pictures
But this is not fun and games, this is not color war, American football, lazar-tag or paint-ball; this is real life and death for so many brave Israeli soldiers that defend us night and day on Israel’s dangerous borders and in vicious wars.
Here’s the letter:
My name is Joseph Zwillenberg. I am from Merion, Pennsylvania and my family belongs to Lower Merion Synagogue. I attended local Jewish institutions from pre-school through 12th grade, including Torah Academy for elementary school, Abrams Hebrew Academy for middle school, and Kohelet Yeshiva High School. I went to Camp Moshava Indian Orchard, and was on my regional board in NCSY. I was the classic “Philly kid.”
I am now serving in the Israeli Military, as a combat soldier in the Nachal Brigade, Battalion 931. My Battalion received national commendation for its work in both operations “Returning our Brothers” and “Protective Edge.” I had finished my training just days before “Protective Edge” started, and had the privilege of serving with my Battalion in that operation.
Despite the Battalion’s accomplishments, we are still poorly supplied. Our combat vests are old and torn up, and they are not able to hold bullet resistant plates. Because of this, we have to wear separate vests with the ceramic plates under our combat vests (which hold the bullets, tourniquets, etc.) This convoluted system adds weight, bulk, and heat. And because we protect one of the country’s “hotter” borders, we are in constant need to be in full gear.
There is a solution: plate carrier vests. They can have the bullet proof plates inserted under the combat pouches, in addition to having much better ventilation under the plates, lowering the soldier’s chance of succumbing to heat stroke (which kills soldiers more frequently than one would imagine.) Such gear is used by every IDF special unit, and has been donated to every battalion in the Paratroopers Brigade. Additionally, this sort of gear is given to every US combat soldier. The cost of one plate carrier vest is $350.00.
The reason why we don’t have them is simple: no one has bought them for us. Nachal, despite all of the recent commendations awarded to the Brigade, is generally known as one of the financially poorest units in the IDF, and when I was in the training base, we still lived in tents.
My unit and I are constantly at risk. Not only can we be attacked on any given day, but war is always imminent. Any day, the situation in the north could escalate, and Lebanon 3 could start. It is my goal to do my part to ensure that my unit is completely ready when that day comes. We are hoping to raise enough money to cover 30 plate carrier vests.
I met R’ Shalom Miller a few weeks ago and he offered to help me with this project. Rabbi Miller, son of Michael and Grace Miller, grew up in Lower Merion Synagogue as well and made aliyah 15 years ago. He founded and directs an organization called “Oro Shel Adam” (orosheladam.net), which helps lone soldiers as well as newcomers to Israel in general. Rabbi Miller’s organization will be handling all donations and details of this exciting project. Donations can be made on-line by following the instructions at http://orosheladam.net/donate/ All donations are tax deductible. If you make a donation please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can follow up.
Rabbi Miller will be in the United States next week if you would like to meet with him. To make a meeting or if you have any questions please contact him at email@example.com.
Please help us with this incredibly important project!
Thank you kindly,
Dear friends this is our chance to show IDF soldiers that we care – we have your backs and fronts, literally. Please Donate to this worthy cause!