(Photo: Michael C. Duke / Jewish Herald Voice)
Over 8,000 soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Lone Soldiers will receive $70 "Fellowship Gift Cards" for Rosh Hashanah from The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), who are providing $3.2 million in financial assistance this season.
"The growing cycle of poverty in Israel affects many soldiers. We appreciate the soldiers who decide to serve the State of Israel and keep us all safe despite the economic difficulties they are experiencing at home," Rabbi Eckstein, founder and president of The Fellowship, said in a press release.
"Our goal in sponsoring the 'Fellowship Gift Cards' is to enable them to fulfill their obligation to the state while knowing they are fulfilling their obligation to their families as well. Now they can serve with peace of mind while caring for their personal needs and the needs of their families."
The gift cards can be used in major retail chain stores across Israel to purchase food, clothing, shoes, sports, and leisure products. Among the soldiers who will receive these benefits will be 2,800 Lone Soldiers, young men and women who leave their countries of origin to serve in the IDF.
FIDF and The Fellowship say that they have provided close to $16 million in assistance to soldiers from low-income families in the last six years.
"The State of Israel, Ministry of Defense and all organizations working for the welfare of all soldiers must make every effort to meet their needs. We must enable each soldier to focus on their service, role and mission and not on personal financial problems. We at FIDF believe that their job is to look after Israel and it is our job to look after them," added Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, National Director and CEO of FIDF.
Earlier this week, an IDF pilot identified as "Captain A" spoke at Gulf Meadows Church in Houston, Texas about promoting support for pro-Israel soldiers and spreading awareness for their cause.
"Jews and Christians have a shared history from the founding of this nation. We share common interests, values and we both believe in the right to stand up for our freedoms. As Christians, we believe that we have a biblical mandate to support Israel and the soldiers that defend her," said Pastor Becky Keenan, Gulf Meadows Church Pastor and FIDF supporter.
"My desire is to spread awareness to the Christian community of how important is that we stand as one with Israel, because Israel is the only true and stable democracy in the Middle East. Israel stands for democracy, religious freedom, and is a leader in support of human rights. Israel is the United States' first line of defense in the war against terrorism and is our most important ally in the Middle East," Keenan added.
The bi-lingual event made use of a translator in order to include the Hispanic community, which Captain A was able to address in Spanish.
"When Friends of the IDF brings soldiers to Gulf Meadows, we are always overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support that the members of the church express towards Israel's brave men and women in uniform," said FIDF Texas Chapter Executive Director Scott Kammerman.
"The soldiers consistently leave reinvigorated knowing that American Christians are supporting them and their tireless efforts in maintaining the sanctity and security of the Holy Land."
Back in November, The Fellowship increased emergency aid for families in southern Israel, which was hit by rocket attacks by what IDF described as "terror activities" by Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The $2.7 million in aid included basic supplies for children and families and the elderly in shelters, including food, medicine, diapers, blankets, mattresses, and generators, and helped those that had been left homeless from the attacks.