“KNOWING that the Jews of the world care about me … makes me want to be a better soldier – not only for Israel, but for the whole Jewish world.” Those were the words of a young IDF soldier thanking Melbourne Chabad philanthropist and Light for Peace organiser Saul Spigler, while he was visiting an outpost in the Shomron region of Israel last month.
Spigler, and Light for Peace co-organiser Rabbi Dudu Leder, were joined by a 15-strong delegation from Australia on a mission to deliver essential goods for IDF soldiers and border police – the result of the 2017 Light for Peace campaign.
The initiative, which originated in Melbourne three years ago, encourages Jews worldwide to upload a photo to social media of themselves lighting Chanukah candles. Donors contribute $2 for every photo uploaded with the #LightForPeace tag. Last year, a total of $36,500 was raised.
Speaking to The AJN from Israel, Spigler explained that the idea was to bring light into the world with Chanukah candles.
“One candle brings light into darkness, and it is an easy mitzvah to do,” he said.
In Abu Dis, a Palestinian village bordering Jerusalem where tensions can quickly ignite, Light for Peace facilitated the building of a recreation room for border police – complete with couches, television, coffee machine and billiard table.
“They were just so appreciative. It was amazing,” said Spigler.
To their “absolute delight” border police in the isolated West Bank post, Mitzpe Yitzhar, were also gifted with a newly-built recreation room.
But the opening was not without solemnity.
The mezuzah was affixed to the new room by the widow of a man tragically killed in a recent terrorist attack; and the room was dedicated to Melbourne community stalwart Ronnie Tatarka, who died earlier this year.
In Hebron, the contingent delivered more than 500 special thermal singlets and underwear items.
The initiative received support from high places, including the Israeli Prime Minister.
“Light for Peace helps to drive away the darkness and together with the entire Jewish people to spread the light of truth, light of hope, light of peace,” Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message.
Spigler reflected: “The unity of people being involved … and just seeing the light of the soldiers.
“It is just sheer goodness and kindness by people all over the world which connected very special individuals with the soldiers themselves, and the people they look after. It is an incredible experience. Something you don’t easily forget.”