Army bases on the front lines of Israel are temporary dwelling places. After three to six months, one unit moves out and another unit comes in. The caravans and tents are impersonal, even when they are crowded with the soldiers’ gear. There is little space to walk – overstuffed backpacks are on the floor; wet towels hang from wherever possible.
The soldiers come back from a routine patrol, and linger outside the caravans. There is nowhere to sit, no comfortable place to relax. In January, there is nowhere to go for warmth, and in July, there is nowhere to go to cool down. In some bases, there really is nothing to do between shifts of guard duty besides eat and sleep in the scorching heat or freezing cold!
Yet, the base is the soldiers’ home. While truer in many ways for lone soldiers (immigrants and those with no financial support from their families), in the case of combat units it applies almost as much to everyone else as soldiers spend weeks on base before being allowed a short leave to visit their families at home. The base becomes the soldiers’ new home for the two to three years they serve in the army, and they do what they can to improve their conditions and make things more comfortable and enjoyable, but their means are limited.
The Helping Israel Fund makes sure that our soldiers know that we care about them by providing a place to relax and unwind, and take a break from the stress and responsibility of their army service. The Comfort Zones we provide include mobile basketball courts, ping pong tables, video game systems, sports equipment, free weights, and frozen drink machines to units serving in the warmer regions of Israel.
Finally, the soldiers can have some respite and fun after long shifts of guard duty, and the long periods of time between visits home do not seem so bad! This project is a great morale booster for the soldiers, and benefits them on a constant basis.