Saying thank you to our soldiers with AWIS

How does one say thank you to the thousands of brave young men and women of the IDF who work night and day to ensure that we are safe and sound?

It is no secret that every Israeli regards our soldiers as our children and after a tumultuous and traumatic summer, it has become even more of an imperative to show our gratitude.

Enter AWIS. AWIS or the Association for the Well-being of Israel’s Soldiers is an international, non-profit, humanitarian organization founded by David Ben Gurion in 1942. The organization is dedicated to looking after the mental and physical well-being of Israel’s soldiers and volunteers work tirelessly to provide for Israel’s protectors.

I was absolutely delighted to join the English Speaking Branch as they spent the day dedicating several clubhouses on bases around the country.

10438174_10152864788234804_7675605928189304602_nI can drive this thing…..

The first to arrive and the last to leave. This describes the Transport Corps, who keep our army moving. The men (and yes, there are women!) who are responsible for heavy vehicle transportation and for ensuring that our troops get to where they need to go. They are the unsung heroes, carrying the army on their backs. Literally! From tanks to troops, the transport corps ensures that our soldiers and heavy duty vehicles like tanks get to where they need to be safely and efficiently. AWIS volunteer,  Ian Waldbaum, pictured below, proudly dedicated the clubhouse for these hard-working troops.

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 Volunteer Ian Waldbaum inaugurates club house 

“Providing our young men and women soldiers with some form of sanctuary and sense of family, in and around the battlefield, is a crucial enterprise that requires our sustained and specific attention. Our branch was formed more than 30 years ago to raise funds dedicated to providing extra comforts, in their off duty hours,  for all our soldiers in the army, navy, air force and border police bases throughout Israel. Though the funds are solely under our administration our branch finances only projects that are requested by the IDF through AWIS Head Office,” says Chairman Cecil Shevil.

Our next stop was Kalandiya crossing and the Erez battalion. These brave men and women monitor the checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank. Often maligned by the foreign press, these courageous soldiers, often on their feet for 24 hours in a row, have stopped countless attempted terror attacks on Israeli civilians. Speaking to them and hearing their individual stories was both awe-inspiring and a reminder of the daily threats our country faces.

In excess of 5000 terror attacks have been prevented this year!

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Warning sign for Israelis

After a lunch that would have put a yiddisher mama to shame, a second clubhouse was dedicated where these soldiers could relax, play a little pool and unwind after a tense day.

The soldiers who serve in the Erez battalion are combat soldiers but they still find time to volunteer with children and Holocaust survivors and giving them a facility that will help them unwind is a great way to say thank you.

The unique essence of AWIS is the spirit of its members, volunteers and donors – providing the young men and women in the IDF with a genuine sense of care and love.

Last stop for the day was the Ordinance corps. Many of the soldiers on this base come from lower socio-economic communities.  A brand new clubhouse was dedicated and the group was warmly welcomed by the base commander who thanked the group, reiterating how a simple room to relax in goes a long way to make these soldiers feel special and appreciated. The clubhouses go a long way to uplifting their moral.

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Ordinance Corp Base Commander says thank you

Saying thank you to those who give their all for us to ensure our safety and security is priceless and the gratitude is palpable.

You can make a difference in the lives of Israel’s soldiers who are on active duty. Here is how you can contribute:

  • Annual fundraising efforts are mainly centered on the Calendar project, the 120-club Annual Draw, Gift Cards, Gift Certificates and of course, private donations in Israel and abroad.
  • The private donations are usually made to celebrate a simcha such as Bar mitzvoth, Weddings and Anniversaries (Silver, Golden and even Diamond!). On some occasions, sadly, in memory of loved ones and legacies from Estates.

100% of the donated monies are utilized for the specific project and donors are then invited to officially “open” their clubhouse together with their family and friends. Contributors are taken on trips to the bases when clubhouses are dedicated to see what is done with their contributions.  It is always an emotional occasion to witness the grateful thanks and appreciation of all the young soldiers on the base – very worthwhile as everyone comes away from these trips with a great sense of pride and pleasure for what is being provided for our boys and girls who protect us 24/7.

The funds of the English Speaking Branch of AWIS fundraising are allocated at the request of the Head Office of AWIS and we are proud to have been involved in many projects throughout our beautiful little country – furnishing and refurbishing clubhouses; equipping sports facilities; allocating funds for needy soldiers and their families at chaggim; scholarships for post-army study, etc.

For more information and donations, contact Ian Waldbaum at: ianwald@gmail.com

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