Since making aliyah in 2020, Gili Fleekop has tried to visit her family in Upper Dublin often. And when she comes back, she stays for a month.
Fleekop planned one of those trips for this fall. She got home in September, spent the High Holidays with her family and booked a flight back for Oct. 21.
Then Oct. 7 happened, and Fleekop decided to stay longer.
As she watched news reports on television that morning, she realized that she couldn’t just sit there. Fleekop created Unit 107, for Oct. 7, and raised $10,000 in 24 hours to buy supplies for Israeli soldiers.
Over the next month, Unit 107 raised $285,000 and sent more than 47,000 supplies to 11,300 soldiers. Fleekop, 27, leads a team with three other co-founders and 400 global volunteers.
“We operate like a startup. We’re not a bureaucratic nonprofit,” she said. “It depends on what the soldiers request.”
A lot of them are requesting warm thermal clothing right now, according to Fleekop. So, the founder and her cofounders, friends Silvi Specter and Oran Goldberg and brother Dori Fleekop, order items from Amazon and Walmart.
Fleekop uses American retailers because Israeli stores are often sold out. The founders send the items to a few New York apartments to be packaged by volunteers. Then someone drives them to John F. Kennedy International Airport or Newark Liberty International Airport.
From there, a volunteer flies with the bags to an airport in Tel Aviv, where another volunteer is waiting. Fleekop has transformed her apartment in Tel Aviv into a “command and logistics center,” she said. Drivers stop by to pick up supplies and take them to army units.
“I needed something to focus on, and I needed to help,” Fleekop said.
Fleekop texted Specter and Goldberg, who are married, and talked to her brother about getting on a Zoom call the day after the attack. After their brainstorming session, they took to social media and group chats.
Fleekop is in one called the Nevo Network for people who made aliyah and work in Israel’s tech sector. She put the word out to the group of about 100.
“Does anyone know anyone flying to Israel?” she said.
“I know someone flying from Miami tomorrow,” a friend answered.
That person took eight duffel bags of supplies, and Fleekop sent her money on Venmo.
Fleekop also posted to TikTok, where she has more than 55,000 followers for her content about living in Israel. The response was immediate. Fleekop told everyone to send the money to her Venmo.
“It’s a very Gen Z approach to fundraising. No overhead. Just humans helping humans,” she said.
The organization’s Instagram account posts videos of soldiers receiving items.
“You get to see where the money went,” the founder said.
Fleekop applies these same values — act fast, wield technology and communicate clearly and uniquely — to the social media agency she founded in April 2022: Pink Chili. The Tel Aviv resident had spent the previous two years working on social media campaigns at ironSource, a Tel Aviv-based business. She increased the company’s social following by 100% on LinkedIn and 252% on Twitter, according to her LinkedIn page.
Around the same time, she joined TikTok, as @gilifromphilly, and started posting about making aliyah, getting a job in tech and finding places to eat. As her following grew, she got more personal. Videos about a breakup and about how she missed her family helped grow her following even more.
One post two years ago showed what it was like to run into a bomb shelter in the middle of the night. It got 4 million views.
“It got more views than maybe a CNN article would have,” she said. “I try to encourage people to do that.”
A lifetime ago, Fleekop was a student at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. She described herself as the girl in her friend group who didn’t use social media.
But when she got the job at ironSource, leaders at the company asked if she knew social media. She said she’d give it a try.
The website for her agency, pinkchili.io, lays out her strategy for clients.
“Test, fail, learn, find the winner, optimize, iterate.”
Fleekop will continue to do that for Unit 107 for as long as it’s needed.
“It depends on the war and what soldiers request,” she said.
She also has a flight booked for Israel in December.
“I want to support Israel by going back, supporting the economy and working,” Fleekop said.