IDF Soldiers ‘Join Hands’ With Israel’s Elderly to Share Stories, Build Future

“You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old; you shall fear your God: I am Hashem.” Leviticus 19:32 (The Israel Bible™)

A new Israel Defense Force (IDF) initiative, called “Joining Hands”, unites Israeli soldiers with senior citizens with the goal of not only of bridging the generation gap, but of connecting lone soldiers with Israel’s original pioneers.

“As part of our organization’s efforts to sponsor important social welfare programs for Israeli soldiers, Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers developed this program,” explained Brigadier General Yehiel Gozal, CEO of Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers, to Breaking Israel News.

“Soldiers with challenging histories, along with six members of the IDF entertainment troupe, go to assisted living facilities around the country and share their stories, music and love.”

IDF soldiers perform for senior citizens with the “Joining Hands” program. (Courtesy Yahad)

Dana Ashush, a lone soldier serving in Israel’s Military Police, is one of the program’s active participants. “I have a very difficult history,” Ashush told Breaking Israel News. “When I share my story with seniors, many of whom also have hard stories, especially as Holocaust survivors and the original builders of the State of Israel, we give each other strength and support.”

Though Israeli, Ashush is considered a lone soldier as both of her parents have passed away. Her moving story demonstrates the strength of her character and the important help the IDF has provided her to succeed and build a positive future.

Ashush’s parents never married. Following her mother’s death when she was 16, Ashush lived with her older half-sister. During this difficult time, her studies deteriorated. However, remembering a promise she made to her mother that she would fight for a quality future, she managed to master her matriculation exams in a short span of time and hopes to go to university.

During her basic IDF training, she was informed that her father had died. Despite all of her hardships and suffering, Ashush strove to be accepted into the IDF’s officer training course. She is now a successful member of the Military Police.

Given her unique history, Ashush was chosen to participate in the Joining Hands program. The hour-long event includes two lone soldiers, usually a male and female, sharing their personal stories with a crowd of at least 100 seniors in 16 locations throughout the Holy Land. Musicians play a repertoire of popular Israeli and military songs.

“Everyone present feels nostalgic,” said Ashush. “There isn’t a dry eye in the house as we reflect on where we all have been and what we have given to this country.”

IDF soldiers perform popular Israeli songs for seniors. (Courtesy Yahad)

“David Ben Gurion’s vision for the IDF was that it should be a ‘people’s army’,” noted Gozal. “That vision included developing social activism in Israel’s young people and care for eachother. That’s part of the importance of the Joining Hands project.”

Ashush’s participation in the program increases her motivation as a soldier. “These senior citizens gave their all to establish Israel 50-60 years ago,” she said. “They see the news and think that Israel has lost Ben Gurion’s vision of an army that cares for society and society caring for the army. This program lets them know that we still remember them and their contribution to Israel.”

The Joining Hands program is intended to demonstrated that, despite one’s background, the army helps individuals to better themselves and have a strong future. “The IDF has the ability to unite the nation’s defensive needs with the country’s social needs,” said Gozal. “Many of Israel’s seniors came to the country before it was a state and made it possible for us to be here. We have to give back to them.”

“I go back to visit the seniors on my own,” said Ashush. “I cannot describe the special feeling I get bringing a smile to the faces of these people.”

To support important IDF social welfare programs, please visit here.

This article was written in cooperation with Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers.