Armed with two steamer trunks filled with clothing, along with toothpaste, deodorant, and sunscreen, Howard Muser of Livingston undertook a one-man mission to Israel, busily handing out care packages to appreciative soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.
Between July 25 and Aug. 3, he also managed to volunteer at the Lone Soldier Center in Tel Aviv, which makes contact with IDF members who have no family in Israel.
Muser, who cofounded a company that prints signs for the retail industry, and his family have been active members of the local Jewish community. They endowed the Fran and Howard Muser Religious School at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, which opened in 2004.
“My wife and I have always been pro-Israel and have participated in many Israeli charities over the years. I said, ‘I have to go in this time of need to show my support,’” he told NJJN.
In Herzliya he worked at a center where “people use computers to get out the good word on Israel to as many places as they possibly can and make packages for the IDF.” He spent time at a soup kitchen run by Magen David Adom, the Israeli first responders’ service, serving food “to Iraqi Christians who were able to escape Iraq.”
On July 30 and 31 he visited the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, where, he said, he “couldn’t count the number of wounded soldiers and their families.” Then came attacks from Hamas rockets, “and they wouldn’t let anybody in unless you were on official business.”
So Muser headed north to the Herzliya Medical Center.
“I stood in the hallways, distributed candy and bottles of water, and talked with people,” he said.
Muser said he spoke with soldiers “wherever I went. Their spirits are up unbelievably high. The only thing the wounded ones had in mind was getting better and getting back to their units.”
When he wasn’t involved in myriad volunteer work projects, Muser managed to squeeze in visits to 20 cousins in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Modi’in.
“I came home with mixed emotions,” he said. “On one side, I am extremely proud of my heritage and all of the people of Israel — not just the Jews but the Muslims, the Christians, the Druze who live within Israel and consider themselves Israelis. “They are surrounded by tyranny and terrorists I hope someday will be wiped from the face of the earth.”
Unfortunately, he said, he fears this conflict “will not end. I hope there will be a long peace but my gut tells me Israel will have to go to war again.”