Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Organization Sends Jewish Rockers to Boost IDF Morale


I have an idea!

Instead of a fake "morale booster," how about a guarantee that the IDF won't be used against Jews on Jewish land, and a promise that IDF troops can follow Jewish Law and still participate in all aspects of the service without being discriminated against.

(I know it sounds crazy to allow Jews to practice Judaism, but we could try it and see how it works, OK?)

An additional to a rock concert now and then wouldn't hurt either, of course!

by Ezra HaLevi

( A new American Jewish initiative seeks to raise the morale of IDF soldiers through rock music and the forging of bonds with young American Jews.

The Israel Service Organization, launched last year, was founded by professional Jewish musicians. “The ISO funnels its love of Israel and her troops through the prism of music, comedy, and other programming,” the group’s mission statement says.

IDF soldiers have long joined tour groups such as those run Birthright Israel to increase awareness and Zionist education among visitors to Israel. Now, the ISO seeks to return the favor.

The group, modeled after the American USO, has already put its plan into action at dozens of army bases across the Jewish state last summer – with incredible results.

The Summer 2007 concert tour, dubbed the Humble Kings Project, “used the power of music to present messages of admiration and support on behalf of various community groups outside of Israel,” explained Ben Hyman, the group’s co-founder and a musician in the band. The musicians, from various groups around the US, were hand-picked for the Humble Kings specifically for the Israel tour.

“Before each performance, the soldiers are treated to a special BBQ, and an opening act warms up the crowd before the main show. Afterwards, a DJ spins music for the soldiers until curfew. Both before and after the performance, the band members and crew spend time with the soldiers, re-emphasizing the message of respect and gratitude. The band and crew also sleep in the same quarters and under the same conditions as the soldiers.”

Moshe, an air force commander whose soldiers were treated to a show last summer, said he had never seen his men dance like they did that night. “With all the media and with everything that goes on, sometimes my men don’t feel appreciated when they go home. Sometimes you just want to get home and feel like a hero.”

“To have a band from the United States come here and want to know how we are doing is unbelievable,” said First-Sergeant Ohad Poraz of the Air Force’s 194th Battalion.

“It took us a whole year to get here to tell you that you guys are great,” declared a shirtless Jon Weisz from the stage to the cheers of the thousands of soldiers.

ISO also seeks to involve North American Jewish students in connecting and supporting their Israeli counterparts as they defend the Jewish people. The group organizes the packing of care packages and hand-delivers letters from students to the soldiers for whom it arranges concerts.

This year’s tour will take place in August and will visit front-line infantry bases as well. The group hopes to bring different genres of musicians on tour in the future, as well as sports teams from Jewish high schools to compete against IDF soldiers.

Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, along with New Rochelle Young Israel Rabbi Reuven Fink sit on the group’s board, lending the project their full backing.

“The ISO is using the most universal mode of communication – music,” explains Rabbi Fink. “Music is able to do things and to heal breaches that nothing else can do. It warms the heart and warms the soul and is something that is desperately needed and the ISO has the ability to do it. This comes at a time when the IDF needs to know that people abroad are thinking of them. There are plenty of organizations that take care of their physical needs, but their spirit is very damaged.”

Students of all ages are invited to write letters to be hand-delivered to the soldiers and send them to: Israel Service Organization, 151 Oxford Rd., New Rochelle, NY 10804.

For more information, visit the group’s web site or email:

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