This article was originally published on the Cleveland Jewish News

Seventeen Friends of the Israel Defense Force supporters from Ohio participated in the FIDF Ohio Guys’ Mission to Israel and seven FIDF supporters from Ohio were part of a group of 50 on the fifth annual Israel Bike Mission in November.

The FIDF Ohio Guys’ Mission, in its sixth year, brought participants together with the soldiers of the IDF, as they toured the Shizafon Base, Mali Netivot Base and Ashkelon Navy Base, and met with Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel at the observation area at Moshav Tzufit. In addition to getting a behind-the-scenes look into the Israeli military and meeting frontline combat soldiers, mission participants also enjoyed visits to CyberSpark, the Israeli Cyber Innovation Arena in Beer-Sheva; the Museum of the Underground Prisoners in Jerusalem; the Palmach Museum; a Segway tour in Jerusalem; and Kabbalat Shabbat (Welcoming the Sabbath) at the Western Wall.

Mission participants learned about FIDF well-being and educational programs for IDF soldiers and their families, including the FIDF IMPACT! program, which grants four-year academic scholarships to IDF combat veterans from low socioeconomic backgrounds; and the FIDF LEGACY program supporting the bereaved families of fallen IDF soldiers. The mission was designed to provide participants with real-life examples of FIDF’s six core pillars: Education, Financial Relief, Construction, Fallen and Wounded, Adopt a Brigade, and Lone Soldiers.

Ohio Guys Mission 2019
The FIDF Ohio Guys Mission to Israel at Mali base in the Negev

The FIDF Israel Ride started in the southernmost city of Eilat. The riders then headed north, cycled through the Mitzpe Ramon crater in the Negev Desert, then embarked on a second phase from Mount Carmel in the north to Caesarea, finally ending in Tel Aviv. The ride allowed the participants, all of whom are avid cyclists, to show solidarity with and support for the soldiers of the IDF while visiting unique military sites, including the Golani Training Base and the Tel-Nof Air Force Base, meeting with soldiers along the way, and learning about the historical and geographical background of Israel and its borders.

“The FIDF national and local missions provide unique opportunities for our supporters to meet IDF soldiers and experience Israel in unique, educational ways,” said FIDF Ohio Director Lane Schlessel. “On the FIDF Ohio Guys’ Mission we were able to have access to the daily lives of the soldiers, visiting them on their bases across Israel and hearing their stories firsthand. Missions like these – whether by foot, by car, or by bike - illustrate to participants the immense impact their support has on the lives of soldiers and their familiess.”

Ohio Mens Mission 2019
The FIDF Ohio Guys' Mission to Israel at the IDF headquarters

FIDF Ohio chairman Richard Uria. said, “Leading our Ohio FIDF mission was an honor and an experience that exceeded my expectations. Traveling with our incredible group of 17 and getting to know the soldiers who safeguard Israel 24/7 was a true inspiration to each and every one of us. Each stop on our trip was better than the next. Hearing powerful stories from IDF soldiers about how our aid can impact them reminds us why we do what we do. Supporting FIDF shows these incredible brave men and women that they are not alone and through one of our six pillars, we are here for them.”