It all started with a simple tweet.
Ben Lang, an IDF soldier in the Givati Brigade, is better known for his work as a serial entrepreneur, responsible for projects such as Mapped in Israel, a site that aggregates data about Israel’s high-tech ecosystem.
He’s also behind such lighthearted efforts as International Hummus Day, in which thousands of people celebrate by, well, eating hummus.
Can anyone bring meals for us tonight? 30 soldiers, near Kerem Shalom.
— Ben Lang (@benln) July 18, 2014
Within minutes, one of Ben’s 11,000 followers, a young American working in Israel for the summer, replied:
— Max Neuberger (@mneuberger) July 18, 2014
Neuberger said he saw Ben’s tweet while helping produce the Daily Kickoff email for Jewish Insider, a content curation service that focuses on Jewish political and business news.
From the early morning tweet and reply, a complicated chain of events was set in motion that eventually led to the delivery of “20 kilos of hummus, tons of drinks, and snacks… all thanks to (CORE18) and Twitter,” said Lang.
There’s a shortage of hot food at many IDF bases due to logistical challenges following the massive deployment of troops and reservists for Operation Protective Edge.
The IDF provides field rations, or manot krav, to these troops, but the pickings are often slim and leave much to be desired. Rations contain highly processed, energy-dense canned items such as tuna, beans, halva (a dense, sweet sesame confection), and fruit cocktail. While surviving on these items in the army is somewhat of a rite of passage for Israelis, the food isn’t known to be particularly satisfying or healthy.
But given the country’s small size, and a well-connected network of helpful types, it hasn’t been all that difficult to get some better food items to the soldiers in Gaza.
What followed in the Ben Lang story was a classic tale of Israeli-style teamwork, chutzpah, and creative thinking.
Neuberger rallied the crew at Core18, the entrepreneurial boot camp program that brought him Israel this summer. They realized they had a very limited time period, because it was Friday, and it’s tougher to organize this kind of effort during Israel’s Friday-Saturday weekend.
“We immediately started thinking about who we could call to make this happen,” said Caroline Mehl, another Core18 fellow.
Mehl and Neuberger contacted Aba and Pamela Claman, founders of Thank Our Israeli Soldiers, an organization that is dedicated to giving back to the IDF forces through a variety of outlets. They also talked to Eli Shapiro, a Jerusalemite who runs Nesia Tovah, a private car service; Neuberger calls him “one of the best logistics guys in Israel.”
The spur-of-the-moment team was able to secure the delivery of the food, through one of Shapiro’s drivers, to the area where Lang and his fellow soldiers were staying.
“I could not believe we pulled it off,” said Mehl, “and all because Max had noticed Ben’s Tweet a few hours earlier.”
Many similar initiatives have been organized over the last ten days, from communities organizing baked goods and meals for the soldiers to organizations sending packages of toothpaste and underwear.
Thank Our Israeli Soldiers sends care packages to Israeli soldiers, while isupportisrael.org lets donors send packages of essentials from stores in southern Israel, where businesses have been severely affected by the situation, to Israeli families in need. Another initiative that started in 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense is PizzaIDF, where you can order pizza to be delivered from a local pizza store to active-duty IDF soldiers.
The supermarkets are participating as well. Discount supermarket chain Rami Levy will deliver a NIS 9.90 “hygiene package” with soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a package of wipes and some candy. There’s also a NIS 23.90 clothing package containing an undershirt, pair of socks and two pairs of underwear.