# 231 – Bougainvillea & Benji by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com
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# 231 – Bougainvillea & Benji

Helping others to understand Israel - and Israelis to understand others...
  • Joined Sep 2016
  • Published Books 409
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March 30, 2013

When ‘Letters from Israel’ are based on ‘whatever comes into mind’, then the potential subjects are limitless. So please bear with me…

As an opening, there is a neighbourhood of Tel Aviv called Neve Tzedek. It is the oldest part of Tel Aviv, where the first Jews from the old town of Jaffa settled, some 110 years ago.

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It is close to the beach, right next to the open Carmel market and the financial district of the city, with its skyscrapers. It is ‘intimate’, not for cars, but for strollers, yuppies, boutiques and restaurants/cafés/wine bars. One of the rich investors runs a very successful coffee house and bakery. ‘Everyone’ goes there. Space is the problem. Opposite, an investor used the plot as a car park – ugly. Now it is let to the café owner, who placed a few tables and benches there, a couple of swings – and let the bougainvillea grow. Look…

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# 231 – Bougainvillea & Benji by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com
# 231 – Bougainvillea & Benji by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com

(That’s Aviva and her friend, Ziva, sitting there. Ziva happens to own and is developing some property backing on to this. If anyone’s interested in a long-term rental of a gorgeous town-house – and happens to have a few spare $$ in their pockets….)

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# 231 – Bougainvillea & Benji by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com

As you well know, soldiers are part of the Israeli ‘way of life’. Those who have been here are usually pleasantly surprised that the presence of the army ‘everywhere’ does not give a feeling of oppression, fear, police state. These soldiers are our kids. Their average age is 18-19. Girls serve 2 years, boys 3. Despite what you may have read recently (also from me), some soldiers are from religious families. They are ‘religious zionists’. They are the decent people who both happen to be religious and also have a sense of community and respect for their fellow citizen. Benji Hillman was one of these.

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# 231 – Bougainvillea & Benji by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com

He also happened to be a major in the Golani Brigade. He became a commander in the famous Egoz unit.

This is Benji at his officer graduation ceremony, with the Israeli Chief of Staff, Shaul Mofaz (currently head of the Kadima party and a minister in the current Coalition).

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# 231 – Bougainvillea & Benji by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com

It was not long after that the same Shaul Mofaz attended Benji’s very large funeral. Just after Gilad Schalit was captured by Hamas and then held in Gaza, there was fighting on the Lebanese border, and Benji was killed. He had just got married; he had not yet had his honeymoon. Can you imagine…..

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That the family were devastated is not surprising. What is incredible – and beautiful – is how they and their friends focused on building something in Benji’s memory.

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Israel is a small country. Serving soldiers usually go home almost every weekend. Some are home even more often. Benji had become known for his support of soldiers who ‘had no home to go  home to’. These were either from overseas or who whose home here was ‘broken’. His parents, Judy & Danny were often ‘forced’ to welcome friends from Benji’s unit for the night or the weekend.

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So the idea came up to establish a ‘home for the homeless’, Benji’s Home. So began almost 6 years of fund-raising, for this whole project has been paid for by contributions. Go to the www.benjihillman.org website, and you will see that it’s going to be an ongoing project.

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Aviva and I attended the Open House. We saw the rooms, the TVs and air-conditioners, the common rooms, the feeding and leisure facilities for up to 50 soldiers, some of whom have already moved in. We heard about the staff: a few full-time, plus perhaps 150 part-time volunteers.

And we saw a few of the 50 quilt bed-covers, each unique, which a lady made in her spare time over this period.

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I am ‘unshyly’ spreading the word. If any of you can, please give. It’s a very transparent organisation; no chance of funny stuff. In Israel, we can and shall be able to help in many ways. Overseas help is mostly limited to donations, which is just a few keyboard clicks away.

Stephen

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