NEW HAVEN — When a New Haven doctor received an email with a plea for help from an Israeli doctor, he knew it was time to mobilize-especially since the lives of Israeli soldiers were at stake.
Just before the start of Shabbat in mid-August, Dr. Arthur Levy, a New Haven oncologist and chairperson of the Westville Synagogues social action committee, received an email informing him that Israeli reservists fighting in Lebanon did not have adequate body armor to protect them.
There was no time to get lots of details, reports Levy. I made an announcement at the end of services, and received an astounding response. More than 50 people raised their hands to make pledges to purchase vests-not bad for a Shabbat during the summer when many people were away on vacation.
More than 60 vests have been purchased thus far by the Westville Synagogue.
The idea for the Kevlar vests came about when Dr. Eli Reshef, an Oklahoma City fertility specialist and husband of Edie Rodman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, spoke with his reservist nephew, Peleg Reshef. Peleg had been deployed to Lebanon, and Eli contacted him by cell phone. What can I do for you? asked Eli. Peleg immediately informed his Uncle Eli that his unit of 80 men, a reservist combat engineering regiment known as the Orev Company, did not have adequate protective vests and body armor. Vests had apparently been issued to active duty soldiers, but vests for reservists were either nonexistent, tattered or not updated. Eli, worried about Peleg and his other two nephews who were all serving in Lebanon at the same time, asked, How much will it cost and how many do you need?
Within hours, after making a few phone calls and sending emails, Eli Reshef, a former member of the Israel Defense Force who saw combat on Mount Hermon, the scene of some of the most intense fighting during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, had commitments for 80 of the vests at $110 per vest. Thus, Operation Body Armor was born.
Edi Rodman proudly notes, We have raised more than $60,000 so far and have provided vests for four or five units so far. And every penny goes directly for the body armor-none of the donated money is spent on administrative costs, postage, etc. Reshef also hoped to purchase the vests in Israel as a way of supporting the Israeli economy. He purchased all of the vests from Kibbutz Sasa.
Rodman said that on Channel 2 TV in Israel, they interviewed soldiers on their way out of Lebanon, and they repeated over and over again how appreciative they were.
CAP: PELEG NEWSPAPER: An article in an Israeli newspaper about the Kevlar vests purchased for Israeli soldiers.