A Report from the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem: A Very Special Sukkot at an Army Base

19 Oct 2006


Two busloads of enthusiastic OU Israel members, tourists and olim (new and old) joined in the traditional annual celebrations of Simchat Beit Hasho’eva with IDF soldiers during Chol Hamo’ed Sukkot. The initiative for these incredible events lies in the hands of Howard Rhine, who for years has galvanized the Orthodox Union constituency to raise funds for Israeli soldiers, primarily, but not exclusively, through the sale of cards that contain the prayer for the Israeli soldiers.

Notes Rabbi Avi Berman, the OU Israel Director: “Seeing soldiers who only two months ago lost three of their friends, dancing and actually getting the feeling of Sukkot that they so deserve was enough to make my Chag.”

One bus took a group to the Binyamin Regional Brigade near Bet El, whose soldiers have been especially active in combating terrorism, facing danger day in and day out. “Just to take these soldiers away from the field for a few hours is a mitzvah. To see them swirl in circles to the rhythm of traditional Jewish tunes is a privilege,” said Tamara Cohen, a tourist from Canada, who visited an army base for the first time.

Menachem Persoff, OU Israel Director of Programming, has been leading these Sukkot events for several years. “We run these very poignant programs together with the IDF Rabbanut of the Central Command. Our intention is to bring the spirit of Sukkot and Achdut (unity) to these young fighters, many of whom do not even get home for the Chag. I went with a very enthusiastic busload of participants who waded through the Jerusalem marchers to meet our bus. Suddenly, from driving through the narrow road towards Hevron, surrounded by Arabs to our right and left, we found ourselves in the middle of a lively celebration with soldiers in the small settlement of Karmei Tzur, where the locals had come out to augment the crowd and to help the nearby battalion feel at home.”

“I am not sure what we most enjoyed,” added Chaim Rockover from Chicago, “the dancing with the soldiers, distributing gift packages to the soldiers, or just the very idea of such a cross-section of Israel joined together. One thing is clear,” he added in conclusion, “These courageous soldiers are what enables all Jews, everywhere, to hold their heads high. Just to be able to tell them so was what it was all about.”