Is­rael’s own SAS an­swers kib­butz SOS

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY BEN WEICH

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.

PHO­TOS: JNF

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