On the first night of Pesach in 2002, two hundred and fifty, mostly elderly people, amongst them many Holocaust survivors, gathered at Netanya’s Park Hotel to celebrate seder. That evening, an Arab disguised as a woman, entered the hotel carrying a suitcase of powerful explosives. He detonated it in the dining room, instantly killing twenty-eight civilians and injuring another about 140, twenty severely; two of those succumbed to their injuries.
Already for a couple of years, we had a “send a mishloah manoth to an Israeli soldier” option, allowing people to give serving Israeli soldiers the opportunity to celebrate Purim along with Jews here in Israel and around the world. “It is only because they are out there instead of at home, that we here in Israel can celebrate”, was our slogan.
2002 saw a lot of interest in our Mishloah Manoth project. People were asking us what else they could do to show their support our soldiers and boost their morale, more than just once a year on Purim. We had some thoughts about pizza or other food gifts. But we were not sure how this would work out.
Then, a month later, came the attack on the Park Hotel. This brought the Israeli Defense Forces into action, triggering Operation Protective Shield. The army entered into many Arab areas and cities. Israel was receiving much support from her friends. Of course the rest of the world showed little interest, just expressed criticism — what were a few exploded Jews lives? The supporters however found no tangible way to expressing their gratitude and support at a grass roots level.
With the start of the army’s operation, we knew that we could help. And so PizzaIDF was born.
The website within a matter of hours. The immediate response was overwhelming and gratifying. Over the next couple of weeks while the military operation proceeded, we received requests for thousands of pizza pies to be sent to our troops on behalf of people from all around the world. We delivered these to as many locations as we could, to active duty combat soldiers, regular and reserves, largely serving around Judea and Samaria, and also in Gaza. The troops were pleased both to receive the pies, and equally importantly, to know that people around the world were thinking of them and supporting their struggle.
Our service has continued unabated since. We have added other items to our menu, often related to the Jewish festival calendar: jelly donuts for Hanukkah, honey cake for Rosh haShana, and of course Mishloah Manoth for Purim.
It is hard to describe how happy our boys and girls are to receive these special treats — it goes well beyond getting a hot pizza late at night to a lonely post. And it is as tremendous an experience for us at PizzaIDF to give them out as it is for the soldiers to receive them. They love to know that people everywhere support and care for them – and so do we.