Don’t let the palm trees and beaches deceive you: Israel can be a cold place in winter. Much of the country is desert, parts of it are mountainous, and when the sun sets in those areas, temperatures can sink below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
For Israel Defense Forces soldiers serving under brisk weather, knit hats can help keep them more comfortable — or at least their ears warm.
Which is why Arthur Pottash, a local businessman, last week sent off some 3,000 knit hats to help the troops.
A member of Adath Israel in Merion Station, Pottash has a daughter and five grandchildren who live in the Jewish state. He has traveled to Israel more than 30 times. At a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces dinner earlier this year, he learned of the need for winter garments among the soldiers and decided to help.
He didn’t have to go far to find what he needed. Pottash is president of Artex Knitting Mills, the Westville, N.J., company that manufactured the hats.
Over two days last week, about 50 people on trips organized by Adath Israel walked into Philadelphia International Airport, each of them carrying a small duffle bag filled with knit hats. When they arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport, a representative of the program A Package From Home met them and collected the hats to deliver to the soldiers.
With one granddaughter having already completed her service in the Israeli Air Force and another grandchild in his second year in the IDF, Pottash said he feels a “strong connection” to the Jewish state and its defense forces.
It’s a country of more than 5 million Jews “completely surrounded by Muslim countries that have no love for Israel,” he said.
The members of Adath Israel who delivered the hats included students in the synagogue’s confirmation class as well as a second trip led by Rabbi Eric Yanoff of families, including some 13 year olds who planned to have their B’nai Mitzvah ceremonies at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Yanoff said participants were very supportive of the hats project.
“Everyone felt good,” he said, “about helping people who are defending our homeland.”