Peter Bailey, Telfed and AWIS (Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers) hosted a most inspiring evening at Beit Issie Shapiro on 16 January  to  introduce the South African expat community in Raanana to Peter’s newly published book, Men of Valor. In keeping with the book’s title and subject, the event had a distinctly military flavour, with tributes and information about the various support programmes for I.D.F. members, with an emphasis on Lone Soldiers.

The premier award for bravery in the Israel Defense Forces is the Medal of Valour (Hebrew עיטור הגבורה). There have been only 40 recipients of this medal since 1948. The book, Men of Valor, by Peter Bailey tells the stories of these 40 modern heroes of Israel in a biographical format. Readers of Men of Valor will learn all about these latter-day heroes, their origins, commanders and comrades in arms, their meritorious acts of gallantry and their lives in the aftermath of the award.

The evening commenced with an evocative video tracking a surprise home visit by several Lone Soldiers. The home visits were arranged and made possible by Yahad L’maan Hahayal (Together for Israel’s Soldiers) who paid for and facilitated all the necessary arrangements.  The audience was able to share emotions ranging from shock, surprise and finally the delight of families with the unexpected arrival home of their beloved children, who were serving as volunteers with the Israeli Defence Forces.

The video was followed by a somewhat lengthy, but very informative talk by Ian Fine, Chairman of AWIS, the English Speaking Branch of Yahad. The main activity that AWIS engages in is the establishment or refurbishment of what are known as Clubhouses on military bases. The I.D.F. provides a room, and in some cases a container, in which AWIS then furnishes and equips the clubhouse with comfortable couches, chairs, television sets and other home comforts for the benefit of off duty soldiers. They also provide exercise equipment and in some cases outdoor entertainment units to provide light relief for soldiers while on combat duty.

A typical clubhouse on a military base

The talk by Ian Fine was followed with a video showing scenes from the 18 clubhouse dedications that took place  during 2019, a record year for the number of new clubhouses. Another video was then screened showing some of the many other ways in which Yahad supports our soldiers.

Dorron Kline, Telfed C.E.O. then addressed the gathering giving information about the Lone Soldier support activities carried out by Telfed for young South Africans and Australians. This support begins long before the start of actual military service, right from the time a young person indicates an interest in making Aliyah or serving in the I.D.F. as a volunteer. This support is continued in various forms by Telfed’s dedicated Lone Soldier office  throughout the service period, but most importantly doesn’t end when military service ends. Telfed then assists the newly returned civilian to readjust from the structured military life to once again taking responsibility for themselves. Housing assistance and furnishing is often provided via the Susan Sharon Lone Soldiers Fund, while Telfed also runs bursary schemes to assist with tertiary study after the completion of military service.

The evening ended with a short talk by Peter Bailey, who spoke about his reasons and motivation to write his book, Men of Valor. He related how somebody who had read his earlier book, Street Names in Israel, suggested that he write a similar book about the 40 heroes who have won the Medal of Valour, as a worthy new project. Peter related how he conducted some initial research and how, in his words, “it became more than a worthy project, it became a voyage of discovery and an all consuming labour of love for two years”. He shared a few of the comments that he has had from people who have read the book.

The evening ended with the audience indicating reluctance to immediately partake of the tasty refreshments on offer as they were more intent on  discussing the information and material presented during this most inspiring evening. After purchasing signed copies of Men of Valor, the audience were  eventually persuaded to enjoy the excellent refreshments on offer.

Men of Valor is available in Israel for NIS 90 from Peter Bailey, by emailing him on [email protected].

The book is also available in paperback and as an ebook from Amazon.