Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gifts of the Magi

As I wrote before in a previous post, I spent a few weeks in Israel during the Lebanon war volunteering, before wrapping up my time in Israel as a student.

One of the things that I did was package boxes of treats for the soldiers who were fighting up north. I took the bus to Yad L'Banim in Jerusalem, and even though I arrived relatively early in the morning the place was bustling with activity. I was directed to a large open room, where there were many volunteers already working.

Trucks from both large manufacturers and little makolets (mom and pop stores) kept pulling up and unloading boxes of non-perishable junk food. Inside the room, lining the walls, were more stacks of boxes and clear plastic bags with brand new sweat socks. At first I was puzzled, but after thinking for a few minutes I understood. With laundry facilities few and far between, and wearing those heavy boots in the summer heat, a pair of clean sweat socks would probably be considered a welcome luxury by a hot and sweaty soldier.

Private citizens were also arriving with their own gifts for the soldiers. Chabad Lubavitch guys came in with Shabbat candles and the tiniest sifrei Tehillim (books of Psalms) that I had ever seen. Women bearing foil pans with homemade goodies put in a frequent appearance. Teachers of kindergarten and grade school children brought stacks of drawings with personal (and usually lopsided) greetings to include in each box.

I joined some other religious girls at a table and began working. Volunteers who were able to give just a few hours of their time would leave and be replaced by others, and filled boxes would be taken away and replaced by empty ones.

At one point in the afternoon, a man whose dress and demeanor could only be described as "salt of the earth" appeared at our table, and with a wheeze of exertion he plunked down a huge stack of magazines.

To put it delicately, these magazines were better known for their photographs of the female form than they were for their articles. One by one the religious girls at my table would glance at the stack, do a mental "whoops" and try valiantly to pretend we hadn't seen them. Another male volunteer, taking in our somewhat pink faces and the fact that we were studiously looking in every direction but one, put two and two together, and in typical Israeli "let it all hang out" style voiced his criticism loudly enough to be heard across the room. "Hishtagata! Yesh datiot po!!" ("Are you crazy! There are religious women here!")

The gentleman in question had the good grace to look embarassed, and heaved the offending magazines off the table and took them to another part of the room where only men were working, and where he hoped they would savor his donation with the appreciation it deserved.

All of this occurred before the war became politicized, and support for the soldiers was common across the board. Every "flavor" of Israeli citizen was represented, and although the nature of the gifts were different, they were all given from the heart.


Blogger Jerusalemcop said...

I'm sure there were some soldiers who appreciated that gift molre than some of the other gifts.

Great story...goes to show that everyone is capable of "giving", you just have to find it in your heart.


11:58 AM, June 06, 2006  
Blogger Jerusalemcop said...

I just got it, the title could have been gift of the magazines. I was trying to figure out the whole time what kind of selfless present would be given back ;)


12:13 PM, June 06, 2006  
Blogger JJ said...

Great story- glad you remembered to post it. Very cute! Sad, though, to think that not everyone in this country supports our brave, hardworking soldiers today.

5:15 PM, June 06, 2006  
Blogger Regina said...

Loved it, westbankmama! Isn't it so true about the socks? Something so common can be so meaningful to the right person... nothing ever is given in vain...

2:33 AM, June 07, 2006  
Blogger bec said...

awesome post!
i'm sure that there were a lot of very grateful soldiers out there who really appreciated all that was given.

8:04 AM, June 07, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

jerusalemcop - the title wasn't exactly indicative of the post, but close enough...

rr - yes, there are people on both sides of the political spectrum that are against the soldiers now

regina - you are right

bec -I hope so!

8:22 AM, June 08, 2006  
Blogger Scottage said...

I wonder which the soldiers prefer, the mags or the socks? Great post!

8:31 AM, June 09, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

scottage - thanks

8:00 AM, June 11, 2006  
Blogger Batya said...

When my boys were in the army they said that everything was shared.

9:59 PM, June 11, 2006  
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