Irving Bienstock, 93, a Holocaust survivor resident of Charlotte, NC, on Tuesday fulfilled his dream of visiting an IDF military base when he was taken on a tour of the Yarden Camp in the Golan Heights. The visit was organized with help from Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) and members of Irving’s community, most notably Dana Kapustin.
Irving Bienstock and his family fled Germany in January 1939 and arrived in the United States in April 1940. Five years later, in April 1945, he returned to the war—this time as an American soldier on the USS Wakefield.
Since the founding of the State of Israel, Bienstock’s wish as a Holocaust survivor and veteran American soldier had been to visit active members of the Israeli military on an IDF base.
“I grew up as a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany and when I saw a policeman or a soldier, I would turn and run the other way,” Bienstock said. “I was proud to spend two years in the US Army during the war, but I was still a Jew in a foreign army. This is my last chance to see MY army. Today, to see a Jew in uniform serving the Jewish state is a victory, and it feels we have come such a long way.”
During his visit to the base, Bienstock and his fellow travelers, including friends and members of the Charlotte, NC Jewish community, met with the Eagle Battalion of the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, which serves as Israel’s eyes on Syria. Bienstock presented a short movie about his life to the Battalion and spoke to the soldiers about his story and about his concerns over rising anti-Semitism in today’s world.
Bienstock also conversed in German with one of the soldiers, Cpl. Shawn, who is originally from Germany and currently serves in the Eagle Battalion as a Lone Soldier.
The Combat Intelligence Collection Corps was adopted by the FIDF Southeast Region as part of the FIDF Adopt-A-Brigade Program. The Program allows supporters to go beyond their donations and get more involved by providing financial assistance to soldiers in need, caring for Lone Soldiers with no immediate family in Israel, and funding rest and recuperation breaks for combat brigades.
Program supporters can visit the soldiers in their adopted units on IDF bases and communicate with unit commanders. In 2019, FIDF supporters formed unbreakable bonds with the soldiers of 10 brigades and 75 battalions, squadrons, and flotillas.