NJ immigrant pampers weary soldiers

NJ immigrant pampers weary soldiers

Stacey (nee Reiss) Amar, who grew up in Scotch Plains, hosted soldiers in her moshav home and fed others during the Gaza operation.
Stacey (nee Reiss) Amar, who grew up in Scotch Plains, hosted soldiers in her moshav home and fed others during the Gaza operation.

Stacey Amar grew up in the quiet and calm of Scotch Plains. Life isn’t quite so quiet these days; the moshav where she lives in the northwestern Negev is home to an Iron Dome installation. Caring for the young people who staff it — and more recently for the soldiers fighting in nearby Gaza — has become part of her daily life.

In the past few weeks she and her neighbors have been feeding and housing the battery’s soldiers and others fighting in Gaza.

Amar, the daughter of Libby and Gene Reiss, has been living in Israel since 1995, when she was 27. She married Eyal, an Israeli, and the couple made their home in Moshav Nir Moshe, southeast of Sderot. The moshav is under the jurisdiction of Merhavim Regional Council, with which Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ has had a long collaboration, and their four kids, ages 16, 14, 12, and seven, go to school in Ofakim, also “twinned” with the federation through the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership2Gether program.

Though her family here has strong ties with the Jewish community — as longtime members of Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains, the JCC of Central NJ, and the federation — growing up, Amar’s feeling for Israel was casual. She made aliya, she told NJJN in an e-mail this week, simply because she liked living abroad, and under the law of return, she knew she would automatically be allowed to live in Israel. That feeling has changed.

“I liked Israel, but with the passing years, I love Israel,” she wrote, “and can’t imagine living elsewhere.”

The moshav, with its 140 families, is less than five miles from Gaza. 

Asked how she got involved feeding the soldiers, Amar said it began when she visited those manning the moshav’s Iron Dome system “and saw they had very poor conditions. I brought them dinner for Friday night. Then during the week I would bring them dinner (soup in the winter, for example…).”

Since then, she said, “I take care of them with the help of friends and neighbors. We make sure that they have a nice Friday night meal, complete with the weekend paper. We also make sure that at least two or three times a week we bring them a hot meal for dinner plus little treats….” 

She said that conditions have improved for the soldiers working the system, but the moshavniks’ contribution is still appreciated. “Each time it’s a different group of soldiers,” Amar said. “They are very thankful, and it makes them and us feel good.” 

In recent weeks, the involvement has become much more intense. The first time the moshav actually hosted an army unit, the Golani Unit 13, it was a major undertaking. There were about 400 soldiers, just out of Gaza. The moshav families invited them in to take showers. Initially, they said they would just sleep on the lawn by the community center, but later the secretary of the moshav gave permission for them to stay in houses. The first night the Amars had five soldiers stay over; the second night they had seven.

“As a nation there has been an overwhelming support for the troops with food, clothing, and toiletries being donated,” Amar wrote, adding that they receive donations of personal items and underwear to make up welcome bags for the soldiers.

Asked what help she would welcome, Amar said that for the soldiers of Iron Dome, she would like donations so she could buy them books and backgammon sets. The Iron Dome units, she said, are often located in “off-the-track areas,” where there’s “nothing to do and no one passing through. This makes for very long days and nights.” 

As for her own family during this time of conflict, she said, “We are fine. Life has been disrupted in that I can’t go to the beach or travel freely but there are people far worse off than me. I may have a siren every now and again, but I do hear the army’s response (air force and ground) quite clearly.”

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