February 21, 2007 / 3 Adar 5767
Yelena Dimitreva had not seen her son Alex for 18 months. “He looks so different and so much older,” she said as the pair hugged and cried at Ben Gurion Airport. “He is still my child but he no longer looks like a child.”
A soldier in the IDF artillery corps, Dimitreva, 21, participated in last summer’s second Lebanon war but admits to deceiving his mother. “I didn’t tell her the truth,” he confesses. “I told her that my unit had not been mobilized to fight in the war.”
Yelena Dimitreva from Kazakhstan and her son Alex
The Jewish Agency flew Yelena Dimitreva from Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Union to Israel at the end of February as part of the “On Leave With Mother Program” to bring together 179 immigrant combat soldiers and their parents. The program to reunite the soldiers and their parents who live abroad was funded by the Jewish Agency and carried out together with the Friends of the IDF.
“It is very difficult being a mother of a soldier in Israel but at least you get to see your children at least once a month,” observed Mati Sharfstein, the Jewish Agency’s coordinator of the program. “I cannot imagine what these mothers must be going through. Bringing them here to see their children is something that we as the Jewish people owe them.”
Solanje Jabiles from Lima, Peru and her son Joel
Joel Jabiles from Lima, Peru was meeting his mother Solanje for the first time in nearly two years. A sergeant in the IDF’s Givati brigade he too led his mother to believe that he was well away from the war zone last summer. “It’s amazing to see him looking so healthy,” said Solanje. “Joel has always dreamed of being in Israel and serving in the army so despite my worries I am just happy that he is able to fulfill his dream.”
The soldiers and their parents were scheduled to spend a week touring the country, including Shabbat in Jerusalem.
Tatyana Milner from Moscow, Russia and her son Vladimir
Tatyana Milner from Moscow, Russia, the mother of 22 year-old Vladimir Milner who serves in a border unit in Bethlehem said that she was overwhelmed with gratitude to the Jewish Agency for bringing her to Israel. “I think you would have to be a mother who hadn’t seen her son for more than a year to fully appreciate how grateful I am,” she explained with an ecstatic smile.