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newsIsrael at War

US-based volunteers help equip IDF soldiers with crucial gear

"Operation Israel" has provided some 10,000 soldiers with a total of more than 50,000 items since the Hamas war began.

Volunteers in Newark, N.J., ship gear to Israel. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Israel.
Volunteers in Newark, N.J., ship gear to Israel. Credit: Courtesy of Operation Israel.

Operation Israel, a U.S.-based nonprofit, has provided more than $7 million worth of supplies, medical equipment and protective gear to IDF soldiers since Hamas launched the current war with Israel on Oct. 7, when terrorists infiltrated the border and massacred 1,200 men, women and children, according to the NGO.

Since then, the organization has received requests from nearly 1,000 IDF units and provided some 10,000 soldiers with a total of more than 50,000 items, including ceramic vests, ballistic goggles and tactical gear together weighing more than 66,000 pounds (30,000 kilograms).

The group works with IDF representatives to facilitate direct requests from combat units and then orders are placed through vetted suppliers.

“I was devastated in a way that I had never been, although I’ve seen a lot. I needed to do something productive that would keep me from sinking,” Adi Vaxman, president of Operation Israel, told JNS.

“I received calls from friends who were drafted or volunteered to serve the country asking for equipment. I immediately took action. I knew what decisions needed to be made and how to fund-raise,” added Vaxman, who worked as a paramedic during the First Intifada and helped victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in America.

Operation Israel, which collects most of its donations from the United States and Europe, works directly with IDF commanders on the ground to identify the needs of soldiers. It then purchases the gear, ships it and coordinates delivery.

“What sets us apart from makeshift organizations is that we found out all the regulations and all the customs [requirements] ahead of time. It changes every five minutes, but we are ahead of the game,” explained Vaxman. “Our deliveries were delayed on maybe three occasions since we started, but only because of changes in bureaucracy once the gear was already on the plane.”

‘We see their names in the news’

Operation Israel will continue to buy and ship gear for as long as soldiers actively engage in combat on the frontlines.

“At the beginning, we had about 100 volunteers working around the clock. We still have 40 to 50 volunteers active on a daily basis,” said Vaxman.

As talk of shifting to lower-intensity fighting emerges, Vaxman noted that her organization will expand its activities to help wounded soldiers recover and readjust to civilian life.

“Several soldiers who were in touch with us were killed in action, which is very difficult because we formed a relationship with them. The next day we call, they don’t answer, and we see their names in the news,” Vaxman said.

“Others were severely injured. We stay in touch and address needs such as accessible housing, mental health and support in adjusting to life after the war. One minute they’re on the frontlines, and the next they are isolated at a hospital—it’s not easy,” she said.

Vaxman said it was extremely gratifying to see some of the wounded start volunteering with Operation Israel to help others in need even as they are undergoing rehabilitation themselves.

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