1,000 pizzas ready to be delivered to soldiers. Photo by Gedaliah Blum
1,000 pizzas ready to be delivered to soldiers. Photo by Gedaliah Blum

The social media network has played a sometimes controversial role in Operation Protective Edge. It has helped keep friends and family in touch following rocket attacks, but it has also been the source of false and hurtful rumors about the status of IDF soldiers. Now, groups of concerned citizens are using WhatsApp and other social-media applications to connect in benefit drives for soldiers on the front.

Many official organizations help civilians in Gaza-area communities and the men and women in uniform.

But the real community feeling of Israel is shining through via social media, where hundreds of regular citizens have decided to organize clothing, toys, food and just-about-anything drives for their fellow compatriots.

It started with a call by some IDF soldiers for more underwear and socks via WhatsApp that went viral and even across borders.

Now, almost every neighborhood has a point person collecting something for the men, women and children on the frontlines. Social media channels are used to connect them with those who want to contribute.

One of the moms at my children’s school put out a call for “undershirts, socks, underwear, deodorant, liquid sanitizer and lip balm” and listed a drop-off point in the neighborhood. My colleague’s sons trek up a hill near their home to hand out homemade cakes to the soldiers stationed there. Member of Knesset Dov Lipman handed out 1,000 ice-cream cups to soldiers at the Gaza border thanks to donations from friends in the US.

Non profit organization Thank Israeli Soldiers holds a care package event in Jerusalem. Photo by Flash90.
Non profit organization Thank Israeli Soldiers holds a care package event in Jerusalem. Photo by Flash90.

Gedaliah and Elisheva Blum, parents of four children from the town of Eli, set up a website  to raise money to buy pizza for IDF soldiers on the front. Their goal was to raise enough money for 1,000 pizzas.

“The response that we received from Jews and Christians all over the world was truly remarkable,” Gedaliah told Breaking Israel News. “Here we have a wide range of people whose only connection is that they all want to help Israel; they all feel connected in some way and therefore help out.”

The couple raised some $16,000 in four days from donors around the world. Now they have a “re-extended goal” of donating 3,000 pizzas to soldiers. They’ve also initiated an underwear campaign.

Actually, there’s a whole slew of pizza campaigns. Marc Rosenbluth runs a pizza joint in Ginot Shomron and uploads photos of the happy soldiers who get fed through charity donations.

PizzaIDF is another Israeli organization set up by three people who know that battle rations are not especially delicious. They started the project in 2002 during Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield and have sent soldiers hundreds of pizza pies and care packages over the years.

“We are shifting our efforts to the south making sure the soldiers know that even though the media might say one thing, they have lots of support and love from all over the world,” the project organizers write on their website. “It is as tremendous an experience for us to give them out as it is for the soldiers to receive them. They love to know that people everywhere support and care for them.”

Rivka Cherney, a Tel Aviv resident who works for Taglit-Birthright Israel, set up a GoFundMe campaign to benefit both the soldiers and the small businesses in the hard-hit south.

“There are over 50,000 soldiers currently called up and waiting on the border for their orders. Some soldiers sit in the same underwear and socks for days to up to a week at a time. They do not have enough clothing with them and also are in need of wipes that can help them since there are no showers. Your donations will go to buying socks, underwear, baby wipes, hygiene products, undershirts and snacks,” she writes on her crowdfunding site. “We will be buying all of these products in the cities where the economies have been hit hard due to constant rocket fire.”

Schoolchildren on summer break are also lending a helping hand (many of them have parents who were called up to reserves) and can be found packing care packages in empty classrooms.

This is Israel.