Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Special Souvenir at Pina Chama

I've written many a blog about my experiences in the Gush Etzion Soldiers' Hospitality Hut that we call the Pina Chama (Warm Corner). It really is on a corner in Gush Etzion, right by the main Gush Etzion Junction.
Dozens of soldiers visit the Pina Chama every day for a cold/hot drink, some home-made cakes and a break from the tension of their military responsibilities. My shift ranges between 50 and 80 soldiers in a two-and-a-half hour period.
This morning was quite an amazing one for my partner Jill and myself. We were volunteering on our shift when a group of new recruits walked in with unfamiliar lemon-lime colored tags on their shoulders. 
They had never been to Pina Chama before - looked astounded by the array of cakes and goodies before them, overwhelmed by the military memorabilia everywhere, surprised at the drawings and notes from little children around the world, and delighted at being able to talk about their hometowns, their girlfriends and even their yeshivot.
We chatted with them, served them sugary coffees (soldiers like their coffee very sweet) and grape slushes, and told them we were happy they were out of the blistering heat for a few minutes.
As they were about to leave, one of the kippah-clad soldiers came up to us and said, "What can we give you back?" (It sounds better in Hebrew.) "How can we repay you for your kindness to us?" I looked at him and said, "Please give us a dvar Torah (a Torah thought)."
He didn't flinch. He said, "We will go outside for a few minutes to prepare."
A few minutes later, the soldier and all of his comrades came up to the counter, and one of his friends gave us a dvar Torah about the importance of responding in the synagogue during the mourner's pray, the KADDISH.
Everyone listened quietly to this soldier and sincerely seemed to appreciate the moment. I wished I had the guts to snap a picture, but that would have trivialized what we had each experienced. I know that Jill and I will never forget it.

In the past 11 years since we have served in Pina Chama together, we have received many gifts from the soldiers who have enjoyed our hospitality. Pina Chama is covered with photos, cards, hats, tags, notes and flags from just about every Army unit you can name. This was the first time we had ever received a dvar Torah.
It was one of those "Am Yisrael, We-love-you Times". Today our admiration for our Israeli soldiers multiplied exponentially when this unit of newcomers so elegantly turned our "cafe" into a place of learning and prayer.

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