IDF Soldier surprises Tidewater with a visit to pick up Mitzvah Day bracelets and letters

by | Nov 14, 2014 | Other News

The first annual Tidewater Mitzvah Day VA took place almost two months ago on Sunday, Sept. 21, but the community’s good deeds accomplished that day continue to positively affect others.

On Wednesday, Oct. 29, an Israel Defense Forces soldier visiting the United States made a special visit to the Sandler Family Campus to pick up paracord survival bracelets and handwritten letters that were created by young and old volunteers for Todah Rabah (Thank you), one of the Mitzvah Day projects.

David (whose last name was not disclosed due to his military status), was greeted by community members, students of the United Hebrew School and staff of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Simon Family JCC and Hebrew Academy of Tidewater.

“When we chose Operation Gratitude as one of our Mitzvah Day projects, we decided that we would send half of the paracord bracelets to our U.S. military, and half to the IDF,” says Randi Gordon, project chair and a member of ATID, the UJFT leadership group that organized Mitzvah Day.

“We are so honored to be able to give you these bracelets and these letters in person, and we want to thank you for all you’ve sacrificed, all you’ve done, and all that you’re doing, to protect Israel and the Jewish people.”

David, 25, is called a Lone Soldier in Israel, which is defined as an IDF member whose parents live abroad.

Originally from Baltimore, David made aliyah to Israel (became a citizen) and immediately joined the IDF, less than two years ago. He fought in Operation Protective Edge over the summer, had friends who died in the war, and was himself wounded and hospitalized during the fighting. Upon his release from the hospital, David returned to his unit and active duty.

In late October, David received leave and a trip home to Baltimore to visit family, courtesy of the non-profit organization that helps Lone Soldiers and others, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

Two days before he had to return to duty in Israel, David found out about the bracelets and letters in Tidewater from Ari Dallas, the FIDF director of development, Mid-Atlantic Region. Not only did he agree to take the gifts back to his battery in Israel, David said he would gladly come and pick them up personally, driving from Baltimore and back in a day with Dallas.

“You have no idea how much this means to me,” David told the children and adults gathered in the campus cafeteria as he accepted the gifts from Gordon. “The paracord in these bracelets is like gold to us. It really can save our lives.”

While the bracelets will be treasured, David says the most valuable items he’ll take back to his fellow soldiers will be the handwritten cards from the Tidewater Jewish community. These personal notes provide inspiration during times of doubt, and let the IDF service members know that they’re not alone, or forgotten, or fighting in vain, he says.

Following the presentation from Gordon, and his humble expression of gratitude, David spent time answering questions from the students. Just before leaving, he distributed gifts of his own to those gathered: dog tag-style necklaces from the FIDF.

by Laine Mednick Rutherford