IDF Tour of Duty: Six American Cities in Six Days

It is rare for the IDF to move an active duty officer from the front lines, and even more unusual to send him to the United States, but that is exactly what the Israeli army did last week by sending Captain Oron Kalmanzon to speak in a number of cities in collaboration with American Friends of LIBI, just six months after the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge.

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In a whirlwind tour to minimize the time he was away from his troops, Captain Kalanzon spoke in six cities in six days. He spoke to audiences in Miami FL, Columbus OH, Livingston NJ, Fairfield CT, Boston MA and Washington DC. “It was incredible to hear what it was really like fighting in Gaza this summer” said LIBI USA Chairman Dr. John Grossman, “hearing Captain Kalmanzon was nothing like what you heard on TV or read in the newspapers.”

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LIBI breakfast at Beth El Synagogue

Operation Protective Edge was the first Israeli battle that relied so heavily on Lone Soldiers and Captain Kalmanzon spoke about the dedication and commitment that American born Lone Soldiers played in motivating the other troops. “I was especially glad to be able to speak on two college campuses where all the students I talked to have friends serving as lone soldiers in Tzahal” said Kalmanzon. “I learned a lot from the students at the University of Miami and American University. Sometimes its easier defending Israel in Gaza or the Golan Heights than on American college campuses.”

In addition to speaking on college campuses, LIBI USA arranged for Captain Kalmanzon to speak at a law firm in Boston and three synagogues. Rabbi Elie Mischel of Suburban Torah in Livingston felt that his congregants benefitted from hearing from an officer who played such an important role in Operation Protective Edge, “Captain Kalmanzon is an inspiration – a soldier who represents the very best of the IDF and the people of Israel. His strength, humility and love for the Jewish people gave us confidence that our people will overcome any enemy that threatens to harms us.  And his very presence helped us feel more connected to the heroes defending the State of Israel every moment of every day.”

A breakfast briefing at Beth El Congregation in Fairfield, CT was attended by Lois Petty of Christian Friend of Israel and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Petty said that meeting IDF Captain Kalmanzon reminded her of “the biblical David who was a humble young man but grew into a mighty warrior. His presentation was so effective you felt you lived through the war as he spoke.”

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IDF Captain Oron Kalmanzon speaking to college students at the University of Miami at an event cosponsored by LIBI and Chabad. The group photo has in it Dr. John Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, Capt Kalmanzon, Rabbi Mendy Fellig of UM Chabad and college students.

“Everywhere he went Captain Kalmanzon impressed people with his moving stories from the front lines. Even though the war has been over for six months, people had so many questions which shows just how connected and concerned American Jews, and non-Jews, are for the welfare of Israel’s soldiers” said Grossman. “I’m happy we had the chance to educate more people about just how strong and moral the Israeli army is. With army officers like Captain Kalmanzon, we can rest easier at night knowing that the State of Israel is in kind and capable hands.”

American Friends of LIBI is a volunteer organization supporting the social, educational and religious needs of Israeli soldiers.

 

 

LIBI Spreads Purim Cheer to IDF Soldiers

This Purim, LIBI USA is continuing its tradition of spreading holiday cheer by delivering traditional holiday baskets to IDF soldiers. LIBI is partnering with baking masters Gail and David Ehrlich, founders of Gili’s Goodies, to create these special baskets.

This is not the first time LIBI and Gili’s Goodies have worked together. Last Purim, hundreds of custom made Gili’sbaskets filled with heartfelt notes of support were delivered to IDF Soldiers by LIBI.

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The soldiers were truly touched by the outpouring of love and support they received from all over the world. Last years notes came from as far as Puerto Rico, reading, “Shalom, May the blessings of God be over you. May He protect you under His Wings. Thank you garageband for windows for being a blessing to your people of Israel and to me for having the opportunity to bless you. Peace to Jerusalem from Puerto Rico.”

LIBI seeks to help worldwide supporters of the IDF to show their love to the soldiers this upcoming Purim holiday.

“We feel its important to show support to our soldiers all year long. At Purim, which is a festival based on happiness, it gives us a special pleasure bringing happiness to soldiers who can not be at home with their families to celebrate,” expressed David Ehrlich of Gili’s Goodies.

Thousands of soldiers will be protecting Israel this Purim holiday. To show your support, join LIBI in sending a personal letter along with a special Purim gift basket to an IDF soldier.

To send a gift basket to an IDF soldier with a personal note, click here.

Californian Lone Soldier Honored at Prestigious IDF Awards Ceremony

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IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (6R) and Defense Minister Moshe Boogie Yaalon (7R) with Sahar Elbaz (4L) and other Israeli soldiers during a grant decorations, citations ceremony at the Palmachim Airbase on February 2, 2015. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (6R) and Defense Minister Moshe Boogie Yaalon (7R) with Sahar Elbaz (4L) and other Israeli soldiers during a grant decorations, citations ceremony at the Palmachim Airbase on February 2, 2015. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

 

On February 2 former Orange County resident and Israel Defense Forces lone soldier Sahar Elbaz was honored at an elite citation ceremony for his bravery during Operation Protective Edge.  Following his graduation from Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School two and a half years ago, Elbaz joined the IDF and was recruited to the combat Givati Brigade.

During the recent Gaza War, Sgt. Elbaz came under attack by five heavily armed terrorists.  His commander ordered him to take cover and protect himself, yet Elbaz returned fire, killing four of the terrorists.  By risking his own life, Sahar’s bravery saved the lives of his fellow soldiers for which he received the IDF’s citation of bravery, “Tzalash HaRamatkal.”

Just days prior to the ceremony, Lieutenant Colonel Eva Cohen of the LIBI Fund, realized that all the other soldiers would have their families present at this ceremony, except for Elbaz, whose parents live in California.  She decided to arrange a surprise visit in tribute to the young soldier.

Left to right: Shimon Elbaz, Sahar Elbaz, Ilana Elbaz and Eva Cohen of the LIBI Fund at the award ceremony.

“Shimon and Ilana Elbaz were ecstatic when I called them and invited them to surprise Sahar for the citation ceremony,” Cohen said.  “I am so happy we were able to make sure they were there.  They were so proud to see their son’s dedication and bravery recognized by Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.”

A proud father, Shimon Elbaz explained, “The ceremony was amazing.  We were really excited to see Sahar.  It was a very emotional experience.”  He added that he was grateful to LIBI for facilitating the surprise visit.  LIBI USA is a non-profit organization that provides for the social, religious and educational needs of Israeli soldiers.

LIBI Works Behind the Scenes to Surprise Lone Soldier Hero

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Seen Left to right: Shimon Elbaz, Sahar Elbaz, Ilana Elbaz and Eva Cohen of the LIBI Fund

Last night’s IDF citation ceremony at the Palmahim Air Force Base 67 medals were handed out to recognized the bravery of IDF soldiers and officers who exemplified courage during Operation Protective Edge, including American born lone soldier, Sahar Elbaz, 20 from California.

Elbaz joined the IDF two and a half years ago and was recruited to the elite Givati Brigade. Just days ago, when Lieutenant Colonel Eva Cohen Chief of the LIBI unit, realized that all the other soldiers would have their families present at the ceremony, she immediately thought of lone soldier Elbaz.

“Shimon and Ilana were ecstatic when I called them in Los Angeles and invited them, to surprise Sahar for the citation ceremony” Cohen said. “I am so happy we were able to make sure they were there. They were so proud to see their son’s dedication and bravery recognized by Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.”

During the recent Gaza War, Sgt. Sahar Elbaz came under attack by five heavily armed terrorists. His commander ordered him to take cover and protect himself, yet Elbaz returned fire, killing four of the terrorists.  By risking his own life, Sahar’s bravery saved the lives of his fellow soldiers for which he received the IDF’s citation of bravery, “Tzalash HaRamatkal.”

Shimon Elbaz showed immense gratitude towards LIBI. He explained that, “The ceremony was amazing. We were really excited to see Sahar. It was a very emotional experience. It was a big surprise. LIBI has been so amazing and helpful. I am very thankful to them”

Sahar, who was born to Israeli parents Shimon and Ilana Elbaz, was raised in California and has been a Zionist from birth. After finishing high school he immediately moved to Israel to join an IDF elite unit, Givati Brigade.

“Our motto is ‘They Support Us, We Support Them’ and so it was a distinct honor for LIBI USA to bring Sahar’s parents for this special ceremony,” said LIBI USA Vice Chairman and treasurer, Shimshon Erenfeld.

LIBI USA is a non-profit organization that provides for the social, religious and education needs of Israeli soldiers. As a volunteer organization with minimal overhead, over 95% of the money donated to LIBI USA goes directly to the IDF. To make a donation, click here.

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Seen above: IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (6R) and Defense Minister Moshe Boogie Yaalon (7R) with Israeli soldiers during a grant decorations, citations ceremony at the Palmachim Airbase on Feb 2, 2015, With over 50 officers, NCOs, and soldiers (active duty and reserves) – including four women – who fought in this summer’s “OperationProtectiveEdge”. Photo by IDF Spokesperson