A 93-year-old Charlotte resident and Holocaust survivor, Irving Bienstock, fulfilled his dream of visiting an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) military base earlier today, February 11, when he got a tour of the Yarden Camp in the Golan Heights.  

His visit came to fruition with the help of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) and members of his local community, headed by Dana Kapustin.

: A U.S. military photo taken of Bienstock just as he went to fight in WWII as a U.S. citizen. Photo credit: Irving Bienstock.
: A U.S. military photo taken of Bienstock just as he went to fight in WWII as a U.S. citizen. Photo credit: Irving Bienstock.

Irving Bienstock and his family escaped Germany in January 1939 and arrived in the United States in April 1940. Five years later, in April 1945, he returned to the war—this time as an American soldier on the USS Wakefield. Since the founding of the State of Israel, Bienstock’s wish as a Holocaust survivor and veteran American soldier had been to visit active members of the Israeli military on an IDF base.

“I grew up as a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany and when I saw a policeman or soldier, I would turn and run the other way,” Bienstock said. “I was proud to spend two years in the U.S. Army during the war, but I was still a Jew in a foreign army. This is my last chance to see MY army. Today, to see a Jew in uniform serving the Jewish state is a victory, and it feels we have come such a long way.”

Bienstock (center) with IDF soldiers of the Eagle Battalion, at Yarden Camp on February 11. Photo credit: Nir Buxenbaum Photography.
Bienstock (center) with IDF soldiers of the Eagle Battalion, at Yarden Camp on February 11. Photo credit: Nir Buxenbaum Photography.

During the visit to the base, Bienstock and the other participants, including several of his friends and members of the local Charlotte Jewish community, had an introductory meeting with Yarden Camp’s Eagle Battalion of the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, which serves as Israel’s eyes on Syria. Bienstock presented a short movie about his life to the Battalion and spoke to the soldiers about his story and concerns over rising anti-Semitism in today’s world.

Bienstock (left) with IDF Lone Soldier Cpl. Shawn, originally from Germany. Photo credit: Nir Buxenbaum Photography.
Bienstock (left) with IDF Lone Soldier Cpl. Shawn, originally from Germany. Photo credit: Nir Buxenbaum Photography.

Bienstock even had the opportunity to speak in German to one of the soldiers, Cpl. Shawn, who is originally from Germany and currently serves in the Eagle Battalion as a Lone Soldier – one who enlists in the IDF without any immediate family in Israel.

The Combat Intelligence Collection Corps was adopted by the FIDF Southeast Region as part of the FIDF Adopt-A-Brigade Program. FIDF’s unique Adopt-A-Brigade Program allows supporters to go beyond their donations and get more involved by providing financial assistance to soldiers in need, caring for Lone Soldiers with no immediate family in Israel, and funding rest and recuperation breaks for combat brigades. Program supporters can visit the soldiers in their adopted units on IDF bases and communicate with unit commanders. In 2019, FIDF supporters formed unbreakable bonds with the soldiers of 10 brigades and 75 battalions, squadrons, and flotillas.

Bienstock on a tour of the IDF Yarden Camp in the Golan Heights, on February 11. Photo credit: Nir Buxenbaum Photography.
Bienstock on a tour of the IDF Yarden Camp in the Golan Heights, on February 11. Photo credit: Nir Buxenbaum Photography.
Bienstock as a child and today. Photo credit: Irving Bienstock.
Bienstock as a child and today. Photo credit: Irving Bienstock.
Bienstock at his home in January 2020, after he was presented with FIDF’s Medal of Heroism. Photo courtesy of FIDF.
Bienstock at his home in January 2020, after he was presented with FIDF’s Medal of Heroism. Photo courtesy of FIDF.