Yesterday the rain created brown puddles all over the parking lot of the Pina Chama (Soldier's Hospitality Hut). When my partner Jill Kuchar and I followed the brown muddy footsteps into the cozy "clubhouse" at the Gush Etzion Junction, we were greeted by several dripping soldiers and some indoor puddles too.
They popped in to the Pina Chama for a break from the rain, a hot drink, a yummy piece of cake and a warm smile. As the morning continued, we were packed with soldiers. Their timing was great, because we had just received delicious cakes from the Dekel Maarav Synagogue Dedication Party (thank you, Dekel Maarav) and cards made by the sixth grade students of the Metro-West group of educators that visited Gush Etzion with the Gush Etzion Foundation.
The soldiers ate the chocolate black-out cake, all kinds of gooey delicacies, drank their "Nes" coffee with two sugars, and read their cards. "Dear IDF Soldiers, you rock!!" "Dear IDF Soldiers, You are the bomb!! (That's good.)" "Dear Soldiers, Thank you for doing your job and protecting Israel."
I told a few extremely wet soldiers to take off their jackets. They smiled, but declined. "They're so wet, we'd never be able to put them on again."
So, they drank and dripped. (No prob. We've got a mop.)
Ten Year Guest
Then a beautiful traffic cop walked in - the raindrops glistening on her yellow raincoat. Tea, a small butter cookie and a smile. "I hung up that certificate ten years ago," she said, pointing to one of the dozens of certificates on our walls. (We've got quite a collection of stickers, certificates, flags, hats and tags, given to us as a "thanks" from our appreciative soldiers.)
She said, "We were in our office, and told that we were going to visit a new place dedicated for the hospitality of soldiers at Gush Etzion Junction. Before I got my coat, I made a certificate and brought it along to thank you for your kindness to our soldiers. And it's there right on the wall."
I could not believe it, and followed her to the certificate. Wow.
Ten years ago, she said, "I was a single girl just beginning in the traffic police. Today I'm a mother of three, living in the center of the country. But whenever I am in the area, I still love coming here to the Pina Chama."
I gave her a giant hug, and asked if I could take her picture. She agreed.
After she left, Jill said to me, "Ten years, can you imagine that!!" We could have served her ten years ago.
Then I thought of all the changes that have happened to Jill and me over the past ten years - the changes in our work, our community, our families - our own children going through the army, getting married, giving us grandchildren, B"H.
One thing has not changed, we still love volunteering at Pina Chama. We personally have handed out approximately 9600 cups of coffee and about 28,000 pieces of homemade cake. We've told soldiers the story of Gush Etzion more than 100 times, and we've taken dozens of photos with our soldiers. It's been unforgettable!! B"H.
Jill, it's been an honor to serve with you. Giant hug.