Thank Israeli Soldiers was officially founded in 2005 by a couple who moved to Israel from the United States.
The story actually began in 2001 when the husband arrived home before the Rosh Hoshanah [New Year] dinner and told his wife there was a problem.
He said, “We are about to sit for a lovely dinner with family and friends and I just passed all these young soldiers with guns protecting us so we can sit comfortably. There is something wrong with this picture, we have to do our part!”
That night, they brought dinner to the soldiers guarding them. Then they had an idea.
They started by bringing cakes and drinks to soldiers in the area. Others heard about it and joined. Sometimes 50 -100 at a time.
It was clear that people from all over the world wanted to show their gratitude. And soldiers truly enjoyed the appreciation.
Together, with a group of devoted participants, Thank Israeli Soldiers was created.
They began bringing barbecues to the bases to show the soldiers, first hand, how much people care. They then started a package program as a peacetime effort to show gratitude to soldiers all over the country.
But this wasn’t enough. The TIS team learned that 30% of the young people had never been to Jerusalem before their service. So TIS created the Jerusalem Experience with tours, lectures, ” treasure hunts” and weekend experiences to inspire soldiers in their journey through Jerusalem.
Inspired by the power of the Jerusalem Experience, the TIS team decided that the soldiers should have their own home right in the heart of the Old City. Inaugurated on the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, the new Kest Soldiers Center serves soldiers during and after their service.
But helping soldiers during their service was not enough. After working with soldiers for so many years, it became clear that the transition for a soldier back to civilian life was often very challenging. Young men and women go right from high school to the army. They serve for a minimum of two or three years, learn tremendous skills but many do not know how to apply those skills to their next steps in life. They are often confused about career choices, educational opportunities, and many leave for an extended trip, delaying their reintegration .
The TIS team took on the challenge and created MOMENTUM in 2008 which is now the premier transition program in the IDF for elite combat units and officers.
Through educating, embracing and empowering soldiers during and after their service, we are working to create a more caring society where the next generation will embody the power of gratitude, understand their potential, and work towards a better future for all.