Israel’s own SAS answers kibbutz SOS
IDF SOLDIERS – including members of the elite Sayeret Matkal force – have been enlisted to rebuild a kibbutz which has been caught in the middle of conflict between Gazans and the Israeli army.
The Kerem Shalom kibbutz, located on the Gaza border and approximately a mile from the Egyptian border, is mostly known to Israelis as being near to the site where solider Gilad Shalit was abducted, as well as for being the target of mortar shells.
Last month the UK branch of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), in conjunction with the IDF, began an ambitious restoration programme, as more than 500 volunteers descended on the small, secular community.
Soldiers from the Sayeret Matkal corps, the Israeli equivalent of the SAS, renovated the kibbutz’s youth club as part of the Renewal Day efforts — and even held Friday night prayers with the community’s younger members.
One of them, identified only as Soldier A, said: “Each day we protect the country on the front lines, and on weekends our hearts bring us back here to Kerem Shalom – because that’s where we feel we are needed most.”
The initiative included “extensive Eyes front: IDF soldiers from the elite Sayeret Matkal corps were drafted in help at Kerem Shalom gardening and painting work”, with communal buildings receiving renovations. The Renewal Day project also coincided with the arrival of 12 new families to the kibbutz.
Volunteers and kibbutznikim were also treated to an evening performance by Israeli singer and actor Idan Amedi, who has appeared on acclaimed Israeli drama Fauda.
Since the Gaza War of 2008-09, Kerem Shalom has struggled to attract new members.
A recruitment drive was launched to reverse the decline, which was attributed to concerns over security.
Lior Dafner, Kerem Shalom’s community head, said that the kibbutz’s members were “deeply moved by the help we received”.
He added: “We dreamed of this day and the day has arrived.”
Samuel Hayek, the chairman of JNF UK, said: “JNF UK is determined to show unity and solidarity with the citizens of Kerem Shalom, and is hugely proud of the efforts of those involved in the recent Renewal Day.
“With great resolve, we will continue to work tirelessly — across both the Negev region and further afield — to help all Israelis and communities in need.”
JNF UK, Britain’s oldest Israel charity, has supported Jewish settlers in modern-day Israel since the early 20th century. Its work focuses on the country’s less-developed regions, where it primarily supports schools and hospitals.