Planting hope with IDF widows and orphans

As the only nonprofit recognized by the State of Israel to work with widows and orphans of the IDF and Israel’s security forces, the IDF Widows and Orphans organization cares for approximately 8,000 widows and orphans a year. During Tu B’shvat, the organization organized a tree planting event at a forest near Rosh HaAyin.
Orphans from the IDF Widows and Orphans organization plant olive trees in the Givat Koah forest along with Tami Shelach, chairwoman (herself a widow) Photo Credit: The IDF Widows and Orphans Organization

11-year-old Maya Keidar lost her father, Lt. Col. Dolev Keidar, in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014. But on Tu B’shvat, she was smiling as she helped plant some olive trees with other orphans in the Givat Koah Forest near Rosh HaAyin in Israel—a site where many trees were devastated due to the recent forest fires—in an initiative organized by the IDF Widows and Orphans organization.

"It's fun to spend time outdoors, with nature, and even more fun to do it with the friends from IDFWO,” said Keidar. Eliyah Asulin, 10, and her sister Ophir, 14, were also present. The Asulin sisters’ father, policeman Sergeant Major Shlomi Asulin, was stabbed in 2011 while chasing after car thieves. Also participating in the event were Jonathan Zilbershlag, 7, and his older brother Ido, 11, who were digging hard to break ground with a spade. Helping them was 8-year-old Yaron Berkovic.  While they planted, other children tried to protect as much of the native Israeli flowers that grew over the past week among the trees in the forest.

“These children’s fathers implanted the values ​​of sacrifice and love of Israel in all of us,” said Tami Shelach, chairwoman of IDFWO—herself an IDF widow. “Now, we must take the values they’ve modeled and continue maintaining them. It’s our fervent hope and wish that these orphans will, indeed, see new beginnings sprout from the darkness.”

Photo Credit: The IDF Widows and Orphans Organization

The olive tree was chosen as a symbol of peace and hope. "It’s a tree with strong roots, so it’ll live for a long time," added 11-year-old old Michael Zacharia, whose father, Sergeant Major Gil Zacharia, collapsed while his reserve unit was training in 2015.

The IDF Widows and Orphans organization is the only nonprofit recognized by the State to work with widows and orphans of the IDF and Israel’s security forces. They care for approximately 8,000 widows and orphans every year through recreational events, programming, retreats, Bar and Bat Mitzvah trips, gifts and more.



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