Thursday, August 14, 2014 | return to: news & features, international


Amid strife of Gaza conflict, tales of human kindness

by marcy oster , jta

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With the worries about rockets flying and death toll mounting during the Gaza operation, many lost sight of the heartwarming stories that emerged from the conflict. Here are some of the best.

• Personal thanks from soldiers: Israeli children sent thousands of letters to soldiers serving in and around Gaza to raise their spirits.

Late last month, an army jeep stopped in front of a home in central Israel looking for the family’s 9-year-old daughter. The concerned family asked what the soldiers wanted. They replied that they wanted to thank the girl personally for the letter she had sent.

The soldiers met the girl and left with as many baked goodies from the house as they could carry.

• My soldier watches over me: A 5-year-old boy named Gabi from Karmiel sent a letter accompanied by an action figure to a soldier serving in Gaza.

“I’m sending you my soldier,” said the letter, which was posted on Facebook. “He watches over me at night so I won’t be afraid, but you have it much harder, so I am sending it to you so that he will watch over you guys. If you get sad, you can also play with him. Thank you for protecting me and my family. When I’m older I’ll protect you.”

The soldier is trying to locate Gabi to thank him personally.

• Supporting the South, feeding the needy: Leket Israel, Israel’s National Food Bank, purchased hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of food products from vendors in southern Israel hard hit by the conflict and delivered the goods to people living in communities surrounding Gaza.

While providing the needy with basic necessities, the organization was supporting businesses in the South that have been slammed financially by the barrage of rockets fired on their communities in recent weeks.

Leket Israel, also the country’s largest food-rescue organization, bought the goods from vendors in Sderot, Ofakim, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Nitzan and Netivot, some of the areas hit hardest by the conflict.

One of the vendors was Solomon Cohen, the owner of  a mini-market in Sderot.

“Because my shop is located on the outskirts of Sderot, where mostly young families live, we have been suffering terribly since more than 70 percent of the community left at the beginning of the war for the center and the north of the country,” he said.

Cohen, who has lived in Sderot for 55 years, since making aliyah from Morocco, said he could not recall a time as difficult as the past few weeks.

• The kindness of strangers: Israelis love their soldiers, especially during times of conflict. During Operation Protective Edge, Israelis went above and beyond in sending food, sweets and toiletries to the soldiers at the front — even socks and underwear. The public also sent thousands of pizzas and bottles of soda.

Communities, municipalities and volunteer committees delivered challah, flowers and cakes to the thousands of families who had a father or son called up for the war effort.

In fact, so much stuff was sent that the Israel Defense Forces called on the public to stop, saying it “could interfere with operational alertness or the fighters’ health.” The donations were directed to the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers or the Libi Fund.

Some $4.6 million was donated to the association throughout the operation, and $725,000 to other funds.

Wounded soldiers were swamped with love, including an overwhelming number of hospital visitors who were mostly unknown to them.

Soldiers in uniform throughout the country also reported being treated to coffee, breakfasts and other treats, also by strangers.


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