Community shows support for Israeli soldiers

TORONTO — No army in the world can compare to the Israeli Defence Forces, said Stan Moneta, chairman of the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association (CZCA) at a fundraiser for Israeli soldiers.

Guests dance with two Israeli soldiers at a recent gala hosted by the Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada. For security reasons, the soldiers’ faces cannot be shown.  [Isaac Dykopf photo]

Moneta was speaking at a recent gala hosted by the Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada (ASI) on behalf of the CZCA. He emphasized the importance of Canadian support, both financially and morally.

“We stand with Israel because Israel’s cause is our cause,” he said to an audience of around 800 guests. “The IDF are laying their lives on the line not only to protect the state of Israel but [also] for you and all Jews.”

Amir Gissin, the consul general of Israel for Toronto and Western Canada, also spoke at the June 1 event. He stressed that Israeli soldiers’ activities are not limited to Israel.

“The IDF saves lives, and not just in Israel – all over the world,” he said. “When national disasters happen, when terrorist attacks happen, IDF specialists have been there, even in countries that are not so friendly to Israel.”

ASI and CZCA support Israeli soldiers and their friends and family. ASI does this through programs such as DIGNITY, which provides special grants to soldiers and their families in financial need. CZCA also has a DIGNITY program that provides food packages for families of soldiers.

Four Israeli soldiers spoke at the gala, offering their thanks and sharing their stories.

Maj. Shay Claper, a husband and father of three, talked about his experience in the middle of battle.

“With bullets whistling over head, [I thought], ‘I am going to help [fight] and [rescue] the wounded, but I, myself, may not come back,’” he said.

At the time, Claper’s thoughts turned to his children and the last phone conversation he had with his wife a few hours before, during which he had learned that she was pregnant. Still, he did not turn back.

“I [went] to fight. You do it because it’s the right thing to do. [There was] no hesitation, you do it with all your heart.  You are not fighting just for yourself, you are fighting for your people, for your country, for your children,” he said.

Capt. O., who can’t be named for security purposes, is a pilot in the IDF.  During a mission, the left engine of his helicopter exploded, forcing him to crash  land the aircraft in a manner that would save the lives of the 22 special unit soldiers aboard. After he landed, the soldiers transferred to another helicopter and continued their mission.

“That night, we did two missions back to back. It shows you the kind of determination required,” he said.

Capt. O. ended by thanking the guests, who gave the soldiers a standing ovation.

“Your efforts are no different than the efforts of a soldier fighting for Israel’s right to exist,” he told the audience.

Brig.-Gen. Avigdor Kahalani, the chairman of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers in Israel, emphasized the importance of supporting the IDF.

“[They] need this kind of evening. [It gives] our soldiers the feeling that we’re behind them,” he said.