Rotem Eliav, IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson
On a group of soldiers’ weekly distribution of food and supplies to needy families, IDF (Zahal) Website joins to hear their inspiring vision of a better society
Date: 10/01/2011, 1:46 PM Author: Rotem Eliav
“Israel truly has threats to its existence – but some are internal, and an elite unit that specializes in helping humanity is just as valuable as one going on a raid in enemy territory,” explains Oded Weiss, founder and organizer of the Special Charity Forces (called Sachi in Hebrew). The group of volunteers, mostly comprised of teens from broken homes in southern Israel, is well versed in the art of giving. During weekly meetings, the teens distribute packages of food and supplies to needy families in their area. Weiss’ initial idea for the organization came with “forced spontaneity” when he asked the teens if they knew of any families which might need help.
“Our emphasis is on the givers, the receivers are just an added bonus,” explains Weiss. “Our goal is to raise a generation where everybody lives with the idea of giving. You have to practice giving just like you practice playing a sport and eventually teach giving as a way of life, where even the receivers are inspired to share their packages and give.” Weiss’s son Re’em adds, “It really deepens people’s way of thinking.”
The Elite Unit
The program has grown immensely over the past year and today consists of 100 teens spread out into seven divisions, distributing to approximately 120 families in many towns.
Among the divisions is a unique group composed of soldiers. After experiencing the act of giving in the other divisions, the soldiers initiated their own group, accommodating their schedules according to their services in the IDF (Zahal). Today they meet on Thursday nights.
“Sometimes we even pick soldiers up from the train station, still with their bags and their guns. Before even going home to their families after a week or longer in the army they come to the distribution first,” Weiss says proudly.
The group consists of 15 soldiers who alternate each week depending on who is allowed to leave base. One of those in the group, Aviv Ben- Yadid, who is to be drafted in the next few months explains, “The group is my first priority, and a big part of that is the inspiration I draw from the older soldiers, their stories, their spirit. They even helped me get into the unit I wanted.” Since they serve in some of the most prestigious units in the IDF (Zahal), the soldier division is treated as a group of leaders and initiators in the program.
Keeping it Anonymous
Maintaining those values of honor and respect, the soldiers make sure distribution remains anonymous. They do not know anything about the families or their stories nor is that what matters. “The spirit of giving goes beyond ethnicity and even religion. I’m proud to say our first family wasn’t even Jewish,” explained Weiss.
When the program started it helped only six families the teens knew needed the help, today families in need of their assistance contacting an “middleman” to find the organization which tries to stay as anonymous as possible.
Recently the soldiers have been distributing to fewer families, some due to improvement in their financial state and others as a result of financial difficulties of the organization. Funded by the Latet (meaning to give) organization, the growing Sachi program still struggles to acquire money and carefully plans out what is spends on groceries and supplies.
Walking into a local supermarket, Corp. Re’em Weiss explains, “What’s fun about buying supplies is that whatever food you buy is what the family is going to eat this week. And then you realize that if we won’t buy it for them, nobody else will.” He answers a phone call and exclaims, “We just got a box of peppers to distribute!”
Let the Distributing Begin!
As the distribution is about to start, founder Weiss proudly hugs the boys and gives a speech, reinforcing the program’s ultimate goal, “a society of givers.”
While unloading the first box, a man walks by the truck and the boys quickly put away the packages, starting a generic conversation to reduce suspicion. One soldier in the group, who preferred to stay anonymous, explains that they do not want any of the neighbors knowing the family is in need of help. They prefer to protect the family’s honor.
At the door, after a few powerful knocks, they place the boxes and quickly scurry to the stairwell, waiting to make sure the family takes the food so that it doesn’t remain on the doorstep for everyone to see. The door opens and a young voice says, “Thank you very much!” Everyone pauses for a moment exchanging silent glances. A chill creeps up their backs.
“There are no words to explain what we do. It’s a feeling,” explains the soldier. “Everyone has to come out to be a part of it and feel it. It gives me perspective about life. The distribution is our Thursday night activity and is really the bare minimum we can do.”
Weiss explains that this distribution truly becomes a part of these teens’ lives, going far beyond just a Thursday night activity. Benevolence and goodwill sink into their way of thinking as they begin to notice people all around them and wholeheartedly oblige those in need. “Destitute families and people aren’t a phenomenon of this day and age. What’s new is the kids’ ability to opens their eyes and see them, and open their hearts and make a difference.”