On Purim, a holiday of costumes, many Jews deliver their shaloch manot, packages of food sent to at least two people, while dressed in their yom tov regalia.
This year some of Miriam Adani’s friends will perform the mitzvah in bulletproof vests.
Adani, founder of the independent Yesh Sachar Lefeulatech organization (Hebrew for "There is Reward for Your Action") that sponsors classes and other activities at the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem, is organizing shaloch manot deliveries for all the Israeli soldiers serving in the West Bank, Gaza and the Lebanese border.
This year some 10,000 soldiers in those frontline area will receive packages that include chocolate, hamantashen, grape juice, candies, a Scroll of Esther, book of Psalms and a Shema Yisrael card: all wrapped in a wool hat or warm shirt. Last year her group brought shaloch manot only to the 100 soldiers guarding Rachel’s Tomb, a few hundred yards from the southern border of Jerusalem.
This year, Adani says, no soldier in the territories will be forgotten. All ranks. "Secular and religious."
Israeli vendors offered their merchandise at a discount, as a gesture of solidarity with the soldiers.
Adani is raising funds in the U.S. for her expanded Purim project (a package costs $8; write the Shaaray Tefila Charity Fund, PO Box 312, Lawrence, NY 11559) and encouraging donors, especially young Jewish students, to write letters of moral support to be included in the soldiers’ packages.
"They always thank you. They say "It gives us chizzuk [strength]," Adani said in a telephone interview from Israel. Her 10-year-old organization has sponsored bat mitzvah celebrations, birthday parties and other religious events at the site, which is considered a particularly holy pilgrimage area for women, was nearly handed over to the Palestinian Authority by the government of Yitzchak Rabin, came under repeated attack from nearby Arab communities and now is under Israeli control.
Rachel’s Tomb, a fortified compound, now has only a few hundred visitors a day. The army insists they come there on bulletproof buses. Adani, afraid that Israel may still consider a return of the tomb to the Palestinians, is organizing the activities to maintain a Jewish presence.
So on Purim, March 17-18 this year, her volunteers, including school children from Efrat, many in bulletproof vests, will bring the shaloch manot packages to isolated soldiers in Bethlehem and other postings. Soldiers based in Jerusalem and other ancient walled cities will get their gifts the next day, Shushan Purim, March 19.
The Purim project is called M’chayil l’chayil, from a soldier to a soldier.
Are the participants putting themselves in danger by going to areas that are subject to Palestinian attacks?
"We have no danger at all," Adani says. "We believe in Hashem." During the intifada, she says, "There is danger everywhere" in Israel.