How an Israeli Farmer with a Lemonade Stand Helped Feed 20,000 Soldiers

The rest stop is called “Everything is free for soldiers”


This is a great story because it shows how much of what Israel does best is ad-hoc. Especially in wartime.

It also reminds me of how New Yorkers came to feed rescue workers after September 11. A lot of those rescue workers came down with cancer, another reminder that people get things right, where governments get them wrong. That's true in Israel, where logistics is still a mess, and the US.

It all started with a lemonade stand. “I took my kids, and I said, let’s go buy some lemons and make lemonade for the soldiers driving by,” said Doron Elbaz, the owner of a farm next to Moshav Maslul, a small town near the Gaza border

During previous conflicts, Elbaz had organized convoys bearing food for soldiers going into Gaza. But when the current operation started on July 8, it was still unclear what kind of troops would be on the ground and how many soldiers would be serving in the area. So he decided to start small, posting on Facebook that anyone driving past his farm was invited for a free cup of homemade lemonade.

“Where can we drop off our donations?” the question immediately began pouring in from across the country. Food, clothing, toiletries, meat, bread, underwear, tomatoes, shampoo, steaks, baked goods, toothpaste, socks – the people of Israel were ready to deliver, Elbaz said. Joined by a few volunteers, he started making 1,000 meals a day, for soldiers who came to rest a bit under the shade, or for soldiers who called and said, please, send us some fresh food, we can’t take the army food anymore.

Now 250 volunteers are cooking 30,000 meals per day. Twenty thousand meals are sent to troops and other people in the field, while he serves 10,000 in a makeshift camp set up outside of his farm where soldiers can come to relax or hang out. He estimates about 50,000 people come through his rest stop every day, including volunteers, soldiers, police, medics, and other people associated with the war effort.

At the rest stop, which is called “Everything is free for soldiers,” volunteers offer their services to help soldiers relax. A dozen masseurs have set up tables to offer free massages. A barber was offering free haircuts and free shaves. Two mothers were helping soldiers wash their clothes in a sink.

It's also a reminder of how Israelis reacted during the Yom Kippur War when so many were called up urgently to the front lines with little prep time.