Company Commander Benji Hillman was a member of the Egoz Unit, which is a division of the Golani Brigade. Benji lost his life on this earth during the second Lebanon War.
Benji Hillman was known for his love of the soldiers in his company, especially those who were considered a “Lone Soldier”. These are soldiers who either come from seriously disadvantaged homes in Israel where they do not have family support, or those who come from other countries to serve in the IDF.
Israeli soldiers are typically 18 -25 years old. Most will have the support of a family, where they can come home for shabbat, momma washes their uniforms, and they have a warm bed to sleep in.
For the Lone Soldier, they will stay in the barracks, which is very small and they care for themselves. While other soldiers are home with family, these soldiers are all alone. Thus the Lone Soldier.
After Benji’s death, family wanted to keep his memory alive. HaBayit Shel Benji was born. This is a home for Lone Soldiers to come to. They each have a private room, community areas where they can gather, meals are provided and each soldier has a laundry mommy.
I had the pleasure of meeting Benji Hillman’s Aunt Ruth Rurka and cousin Saul Rurka. Saul took time off from work and poured his heart and soul into seeing the HaBayit Shel Benji (Benji’s House) was established. Today there is a volunteer staff, a board of directors and a new CEO. Recently Ruth took me on a tour of this completed facility. I still get chills when I think of walking this huge home for the soldiers. Walking into the room of young men and women serving in the combat units in the IDF took my breath away. Knowing that these young soldiers are no longer alone was powerful. Benji’s House can house up to 50 soldiers. Soldiers will stay at HaBayit Shel Benji during their enlistment and are allowed to stay on for a short time until they are established.
The next phase for HaBayit Shel Benji is to create the resource center for all soldiers. Here soldiers will receive life skills training, job seeking assistance, counseling, and more. This is a most important project and I would ask that you join me supporting HaBayit Shel Benji. Let us show these Lone Soldiers that we support them and Israel.
May Commander Benji Hillman’s love and memory live on in the hearts of the soldiers who reside in HaBayit Shel Benji.