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It is rare for Thanksgiving and Channuka to coincide. Rarer still, for the Mayor of Boston to officially baptize (or circumcise, more appropriately) this revered traditional American holiday to Thansgivvukah. But as delighted as we may be to see this fruitful exchange in Jewish and American culture, none could have been more delighted than soldiers serving in the IDF without their families.

Festivals are always a tough time for lone soldiers serving far away from their families, and it can be a challenge to keep from reminiscing about being back home, digging into Mom’s cooking, spending quality time with the people you care about and putting aside thoughts of the outside world.

No one understands this more than the Lone Soldier Center, with its volunteer staff of ex-lone soldiers, who decided to import the thanksgiving experience to the soldiers in one of the largest events it has pulled off to date. Weeks of logistical planning and fundraising bore some wonderful results: Jems brewery generously pledged an unlimited amount of their fantastic beer (a substantial commitment considering the soldiers impressive drinking capacity!), volunteers came from around the country to prepare the premises for the festivities, and doughnuts were distributed freely (some to be used as ammo in a very sticky re-enaction of the fight between the Maccabis and Greeks!)

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The results were astounding – 600 lone soldiers of every background came together in Tel Aviv to celebrate the occasion by devouring 18 turkeys, more than 150 litres of beer, and  an assortment of home-made desserts served while they settled back and unwinded in front of some good home-grown American football. One thing can be said for sure – on that night no lone soldier felt alone.

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Brandon is an American lone soldier from New Jersey who currently serves in a counter-terrorism unit, and joined us for the celebrations. “You guys did an awesome job”, he said (with a mouth full of turkey). “I always miss being with my family on thanksgiving, but this really does feel like family. And I don’t know how you managed to pull off such a well-planned event with all this free food and free beer, but you sure have my thanks!”.

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The soldiers gratitude was clear, but this thanksgiving was the Lone Soldier Center’s opportunity to express the Jewish peoples’ gratitude to Israel’s young men and women who serve independent of family support. The Lone Soldier Center holds itself to the highest possible standards in providing service and advice to the lone soldier population, and is constantly seeking partners who can provide resources to further its vision.

To get involved, please go to www.lonesoldiercenter.com