Christian donations buy holiday gift vouchers for 14,000 IDF soldiers


(JTA) — Some 14,000 Israeli soldiers who are either living apart from their families or are in need of special assistance will receive a cash gift from Christian donors ahead of Rosh Hashanah.

The money, part of the Gift Cards program of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, is to be handed out ahead of the Jewish new year, which is celebrated next week, to 9,600 “lone soldiers” — Israel Defense Forces personnel, many of them new immigrants, who either have no family in Israel or are not in contact with their families.

Some 9,600 lone soldiers are to receive $125 each from the $1.5 million allocated to the program, which the fellowship runs in partnership with the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers, the Fellowship said in a statement Thursday.

Anther 4,500 soldiers from families in need, who are not lone soldiers and therefore do not meet the criteria for vouchers, will receive $65 apiece to help them “make ends meet this holiday season,” the fellowship’s statement read.

“Israel’s growing poverty affects its soldiers, as well,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the fellowship’s founder. “We honor those IDF enlistees who serve the State of Israel and keep us safe despite the economic difficulties they face at home.”

Over the past decade, the Fellowship has provided similar gifts to lone and needy soldiers on holidays, including Hanukkah, Passover and Rosh Hashanah.

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