THE SECOND annual community sponsored walk in aid of the Benji Hillman Foundation took place in Raanana in May 2008. Some 2,000 people from all parts of the country, ranging in age from toddlers to octogenarians, walked or ran a 3k, 5k or 10k route. More than NIS 200,000 was raised for ‘Habayit shel Benji’, a home for lone soldiers to be built in Raanana in memory of British-born Major Benji Hillman who was killed in action in the second Lebanon war in July 2006, just three weeks after his wedding.

      “It was notable this year that the walk was truly a community enterprise, with seemingly endless goodwill coming from many directions,” said David Rurka, Benji’s uncle, who headed the walk committee. “In addition to the efforts made by the walkers, many people donated goods and offered their professional services free of charge and the committee, aided by scores of other volunteers, worked hard for many weeks before the walk and on the day, to make the event a great success.”

      Nahum Hofree, the mayor of Raanana, opened the event and participated in the walk. He emphasized the municipality’s firm commitment to Habayit shel Benji. The municipality has allocated land, and building is expected to begin by the end of the summer.

      Many of Benji’s friends from the army participated in the walk. Ofir Levius was Deputy Battalion Commander in the Golani Brigade when Benji was the Company Commander. The two men were close friends. After the walk Ofir recounted how Benji saved his life while they were on a joint patrol in Morag in the Gaza Strip.

      “The incident happened 18 months before Benji was killed. He was in the jeep behind me. My jeep ran over a roadside bomb, a civilian was killed and I lost my right leg. Benji ran to help me, under fire. One terrorist was shot immediately; the second was killed after a search to locate him. Benji was with me throughout my recuperation and I was at his wedding just before he was killed. He was an exceptional commander and a real mensch; brave, levelheaded and full of compassion. He was always concerned for the men in his unit, especially the lone soldiers; as a veteran immigrant he had that extra connection. This home for lone soldiers is a very fitting commemoration of Benji, and the walk itself is so appropriate for someone who used to love hiking through the country. Next year I plan to run the 10 kilometers.”

 

The Benji Hillman Foundation was established by Benji’s family after his death in order to continue his legacy of caring for lone soldiers.

These soldiers, who are here from abroad or who come from disadvantaged backgrounds in Israel, do not have a comfortable home to go to when they are on leave. “Habayit shel Benji” will provide a warm and caring home for lone soldiers and will provide them with assistance and vocational guidance when they leave the army.

            For more information and to find out how you can help:

www.benjihillman.org

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Marian Lebor

Marian Lebor came to live in Israel from London in 1994 with her husband and their three children. She is a freelance writer, editor and film-maker. For many years she wrote a regular column about eve...
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