Thursday, March 1, 2007


JULY, 2006: A drop shipment
next to the Lebanese border.
A Story of War
A Story of Yashar Lachayal

Nachalat Yehuda, the Happy Minyan of Maale Adumim, has been privileged to be a part of an amazing joint project. You may have heard some parts of the story. We’d like to share with you the main points of the ongoing story.
On July 19, Avigail and Meir (Alida and Miles) were talking to their daughter, Rena, about the beginning of the war, and the soldiers up north. They questioned: Was anybody taking care of them? Was anybody sending them "goodies," asking them what they needed? Rena discussed it with her husband Jonathan, and then spoke with Doron, who had volunteered to go back into his unit as a Dovair Zahal (IDF spokesperson).
Doron gave Rena a chilling message - nobody was visiting the troops, and he knew personally of units that desperately needed personal items. They had been called into service quickly, and were being moved rapidly into battle. Supply lines were stretched.
Rena decided to arrange for her friends to stand outside the Mitzpeh Nevo Maale Adumim makolet (local supermarket) and collect money and snacks for the soldiers, and toys and games for the children living in the northern bomb shelters.
Avigail and Meir went shopping in the local Mall and they bought at local stores: underwear, socks, T-shirts, personal hygiene items.
On Sunday, July 23rd, they filled their station wagon and drove north. Along the way, Doron steered them to one of the artillery bases on the Lebanese border. Going down a dirt path, following 2 mobile artillery guns, and followed by 2 tanks, they arrived and asked for "Boaz." (That night Boaz appeared on CNN with Anderson Cooper.) Boaz was in a state of shock that civilians drove to his base to deliver personal goods. He accepted them with such enthusiasm. When Avigail and Meir asked the soldiers what they really needed, they responded:" Nothing - we have everything we need." This soon became the response that was heard with every unit!
Boaz confided that he really needed flashlights that fit on helmets, and, if it was no trouble, maybe a few beach umbrellas. It was 42 degrees (107 degrees Fahrenheit). There with no shade.
The next week was filled with activity. An appeal was made to friends in America, while the umbrellas were found, and 36 helmet mounted flashlights were purchased. In addition, the Moskowitz Family of Miami Beach, Florida came forward with a major gift of $50,000.
The following Sunday, Avigail and Meir headed back to Boaz’s encampment (which was already moving further north) and dropped off the beach umbrellas, flashlights and more personal items, along with cookies and snacks collected from Mitzpeh Navo. They were met with disbelief - one trip could be explained as an oddity. Two trips was pure madness, and showed that we really did care. Boaz commented: "You guys don’t know what it means to our boys to see you here, and to receive these presents. They know the country cares, but to see that caring expressed in person is so important to them, to say nothing about the much needed underwear and personal items and treats. We spend 14-18 hour days manning the artiller. From our hearts, todah."
By Monday, Michael, President of Nachalat Yehuda had appointed Leon to oversee the "Operation Northern Points" IDF emergency project. Leon took off three weeks from his job with the Holocaust Claims Conference and volunteered to work for the soldiers.
On the same day, Doron called with an emergency - he found a base from which the soldiers had sustained multiple deaths and injuries, and the boys needed supplies desperately before going back into Lebanon. Avigail and Meir drove back up that morning, again with a full car.
Outside Kiryat Shemona, they dropped off the supplies with Yaron, who told Doron the following story: "We had just taken the Lebanese village, when we noticed that only 3 of our tanks had arrived instead of 4. I ran with 2 of my officers to see about the 4th tank. Around a bend in the road, the tank stood, smoking. We had hoped it was a mechanical problem.
"As we approached, there was withering fire from Hezbullah. My best friend was sitting on the top of the tank, but only the top half of his body. Four soldiers lay wounded by the side of the tank, and 3 more wounded inside the tank. Under heavy enemy fire, we managed to get all the boys back to safety and retrieved my friend’s body.
"When we reached our temporary base, we realized that we had not heard from our mifakeach (commander) in 15 minutes. We went out in search of him, and his 2 adjutants. We found them pinned down inside a house, injured and without communication. We carried them out on our backs."
Doron looked at me, and said: "10 wounded soldiers saved. Not bad for 20 minutes work. By the way, Yaron is 20 years old." Yaron came over to thank us, And we said, "No, thank YOU!"
By Tuesday, Leon had the project in full service, buying supplies, finding volunteers to drive, and shipping a van a day, and sometimes 2-3 vans in a single day. More often then not Leon drove the van again and again.
The rest is history.
Items sent north:
T shirts
Dark socks
Laundry bags
Packs of cards
Jock itch cream and powder
Foot powder
Insect repellant
Books of Psalms
Prayer books
CD Players and CDs
Soccer balls
Soda and drinks
Cakes and cookies
Potato chips and snacks
Battery powered hair clippers
Beach umbrellas
Universal chargers for cell phones
And the beat goes on...
An email letter received on August 16, 2006:
Meir,I wanted to email you tonight as today's events are still fresh in my mind. I am full of different emotions as a result of a very taxing day. Because of the "ceasefire" and the confusion which surrounded it, I scheduled for myself 7 stops all over the northern border. Troops are being deployed to different areas, replacements are being sent into Lebanon, and 24 hour furloughs are making the North a logistical nightmare!
Every single stop was a story onto itself, from "Leon, what a soul you are" to "I've never met anyone like you". But in every circumstance I reminded them that I am just a messenger of the Moskowitz family in Florida, and that their soldiers are the true "Giborim". But the message was lost, because they were very deeply touched by what we did for them.
One of the stops I made was back to a base with a Druze officer that I visited before, he hugged me and said that he never learned English but wanted me to convey to the Moskowitz family how appreciative he was.
How ironic is the phone call I just received from Sgt. Inbar (reserves) from an artillery unit on the border. When I called him last week to ask him if he needed anything, he thought the call was heaven sent - he immediately said: : "We are firing rounds but can not see where we are walking in the darkness," and if that wasn't bad, he said his unit did not have access to water while they are firing in the above 100 degree weather. I immediately purchased 50 head flashlights and 6- 30 liter jugs for about $750.00. I can not tell you how many times he has called since to thank me that someone actually heard him and cared enough to do something about it.
But tonight's phone call was different- there are performers at his base tonight and he wanted to know how to spell Moskowitz and clarify the name of Nachalat Yehuda because he wanted to get up in front of everyone and give special thanks and appreciation to a very special team that answered their call.
I have not had the time in the past 18 days to reflect on these experiences and to understand the amount of chesed that we did, but tonight brought it home. One of the base officers named Zvika, who we supplied with much needed socks, underwear, hygiene products, etc. called me tonight and begged me to come to a home in Maale Adumim of one of his soldiers that was killed a few days ago. After consoling the bereaved family, he took me to the side and told me "You have no idea how much happiness you gave to my guys - you have no idea. While they were in Lebanon fighting for their lives, I was able to send supplies, and all they kept saying was "Tzvika, you're a tzaddik". He knew how much they lacked, and he kept saying "You, Leon made me a tzaddik- because there are people in this world that don't understand or see the results of kind deeds, but I am telling you that you should know how many lives you have touched by caring for us". This went on for almost a half hour. As he walked me to my car, he kept saying please bring the Moskowitz family to my base in the Golan Heights so they can see the many soldiers that they have touched in such a deep way in a time where it seemed nobody was listening.

Signed, Leon

A few days later we received a call from the Moskowitz Family asking if we could continue the efforts begun during the war.
The Irving I. Moskowitz Foundation has since funded the day to day administration YASHAR LACHAYAL, so that EVERY PENNY WE RAISE GOES STRAIGHT TO THE SOLDIERS. Leon Blankrot was hired as the only staff person, and manages a growing volunteer operation.
And that’s how we got started... see us at
For information about donating other items, contact

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Meet Pini

This story started as Leon was driving to a brit near Bet Shemesh. He was lost and stopped to ask a soldier for directions. The soldier lived near the location of the brit, so he got in the car and off they drove. Leon asked the soldier where he was based, and told the soldier about Yashar Lachayal. The soldier took Leon’s card.
Pini, one of the soldier’s officers, called Leon and that Thursday Leon showed up at his base near Beitar Illit, near the Arab village of Husan.
Six days later Leon and Meir arrived at the base to distribute fleece jackets and wool hats. As we passed the last security barrier, an American couple who live in Beitar Ilit had just been stoned on the same road.
Pini greeted Leon and Meir and began to give them a tour of the base. Leon immediately asked Pini if they have YES for their TV. Yes, they did, but it has never worked. Do they own a DVD player? Yes, but it also is broken. Leon returned to his car and brought back a brand new DVD player and handed it to Pini. One would have thought that we had given him a diamond Rolex watch!
Seventeen (17) of Pini’s soldiers were being discharged after three (3) years of service, so they were having a BBQ to celebrate. As we walked around a jeep arrived in a hurry, a fire bomb having just been thrown at it just before entering the base. It seems like a normal occurrence.
Pini is 24 years old, a tall, dark, thin officer with enough dedication and conviction to fill a black hole. He is also perhaps the most modest person we have met. He explained, "We are warriors. The guys on this base know what they must do, and we do it. There are no complaints here. We have everything we need." (As an aside, they don’t. They have enough bullet proof vests for patrols, but no extra. They have a recreation room which is so small and filled with their gear, there is maybe room for 5 boys to sit. They do not have an exercise room. As mentioned before, no working TV reception, no games, no books, no newspapers. AND no A/C - the boys bring heaters from home.)
Pini continued, "We start each day around the Israeli flag with a salute and Hatikvah. The boys must know what we are fighting for. That’s my job to teach them. I am a Zionist, and so are they, or they will be when I get finished with them." Pini shows us the makeshift memorial he has built for his unit. It is a small fish pond with cardboard posters and pictures of the 11 boys killed in the past 2 years. This is a very active unit, mixed into the middle of dangerous situations. We look at the memorial. It is such a sad moment, and the memorial is equally sad in its simplicity.
Pini then tells us of the last boy who died 2 months ago, from injuries suffered in a terrorist attack. His Father works for Magen David Adom in Tel Aviv. In an effort to try to keep close to the boys and girls in his son’s unit, this Father invites 10 soldiers a week, all expenses paid, to come to Tel Aviv and receive one free day of training in life saving techniques. Pini is so proud not only of this Father, but that his soldiers can get special training not usually available to them.
Pini tells us, "The boys do patrols 12 hours a day. They get back from patrol, we debrief them, and they go to sleep. We let them sleep 6 hours, then we wake them, feed them, and spend the rest of the day on practice, until we go out on patrol again. Free time, not much, and what would they do? But we don’t need anything. We have everything we need." A song we have heard before.
We try to explain to Pini that he is like their Father. He needs to take care of his boys. He needs to create a "base" which is like a comfortable home. Pini explains it is difficult when they move around so much. But he listens.
We sit down around long tables filled with food, for the ceremony. Pini thanks Yashar Lachayal for their fleece jackets and hats. He shows the boys that they even have imprinted on them the new emblem of their unit. There is much clapping and cheering. The boys looked honestly surprised at their gifts.
Pini goes on with distributing the jackets. At that point, the ceremony is interrupted. The captain yells out a code word and eight (8) soldiers jump up and run to the rear of the base. Pini continues talking. We think it is a training exercise. Within 2 minutes the 8 men are dressed in full combat gear and go charging out the front gate. Another car has been stoned, we are told.
It is late so we start saying goodbyes. Pini is so humble in his thanks. Again we ask him to call if he thinks of anything he needs. We get the feeling that he won’t, so we tell him that it is not for him, but for his soldiers. We hope he gets "it." We say goodbye, and drive home. We pass Husan and there are jeeps all around combing the area for the stone throwers. We are so touched by Pini’s simplicity, his modesty, and the fervor and ardor of his commitment to his job. He is a Zionist of the highest degree.
We feel both saddened by the conditions on this base and exhilarated by the high level of commitment of this young warrior. Welcome to the world of Yashar Lachayal.