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August 23, 1991 - Image 110

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-08-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I

FOR WOMEN

`Sabta Frieda' Makes Her Mark
At Israeli Army Base In Negev

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Assistant Editor

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110 FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 1991

W. Bloomfield

S

he was never without
her khaki uniform
with its distinctive
yellow markings on the
pocket. It proclaimed:
Tzahal, the Israel Defense
Force.
She lived on a base in the
Negev. She worked daily
with military equipment.
Her name was Sabta
Frieda. '
Farmington Hills resident
Frieda Leemon has been a
longtime supporter of Israel.
National president from
1977-1981 of Na'amat (then
known as Pioneer Women),
Mrs. Leemon met regularly
with Israeli leaders in-
cluding former prime min-
isters Menachem Begin and
Golda Meir, as well as
Jerusalem Mayor Teddy
Kollek. But never did she
experience Israel quite like
last June when she spent
three weeks working at an
IDF base.
Last winter, Mrs. Leemon
chanced to read an adver-
tisement for Sarel, a New
York-based organization
that coordinates volunteer
programs in Israel. The ad
invited Americans to vol-
unteer for three weeks in
Israel working for the army,
a kibbutz or a hospital. The
work would relieve an
Israeli soldier from reserve
duty, the ad said.
Mrs. Leemon was planning
to spend several summer
weeks in Israel, where she
was organizing a Na'amat
conference set for November.
Why not, she thought, stay
an extra three weeks and
help out at an army base?
"I had no idea what I was
getting into," she says to-
day.
The 400 Sarel volunteers
arrived at Ben-Gurion on
May 28. Mrs. Leemon was
there to greet them.
"I thought they would all
be senior citizens," she said.
"But some of them were 17,
18 years old." At 70, Mrs.
Leemon was the most senior
member of the group.
Mrs. Leemon and 19 other
volunteers were assigned to
work outside Beersheva at
Mahane Natan, a supply-
depot for the southern army
command. Their day began
with a 7 a.m breakfast of
halvah and chocolate spread
and ended at 5 p.m. Work
consisted of selecting

Frieda Leemon, right, with fellow volunteer Pam Ely of New Jersey at the
Mahane Natan army base outside Beersheva.

reusable material from
secondhand military equip-
ment, such as cartridge belts
and canteens.
Volunteers included two
sets of a mother and
daughter, the head of the
United Jewish Appeal in
Des Moines, a retired engi-
neer and a young woman
and her fiance.
"We came from all diff-
erent walks of life," Mrs.
Leemon says, "but we really
bonded."
In the afternoon the vol-
unteers, officers and soldiers
working on the base ate lun-

Volunteers
included two sets
of a mother and
daughter, the head
of the United
Jewish Appeal in
Des Moines, a
retired engineer
and a young
woman and her
fiance.

ch together. Because of fami-
ly or personal problems,
soldiers assigned to Mahane
Natan are not involved in
combat.
Though Mrs. Leemon
strongly recommends the
Sarel program, it is not the
sort of thing that might- ap-
peal to travelers whose idea
of "roughing it" means stay-
ing at the Hilton. Or as Mrs.
Leemon explained, "If that
(being on a military base) is
what camp is like, I'm glad I
never went."

First was the matter of ac-
commodations. The vol-
unteers stayed in barracks
on base. Their shower con-
sisted of two pipes, complete-
ly exposed until one creative
woman made shower cur-
tains of plastic bags. The
bathroom was about a
quarter mile away from the
barracks.
Most of the men on the
base did not speak English,
though four of the 20 Ameri-
can volunteers knew Heb-
rew. Among the four was
Mrs. Leemon, a student in
Nira Lev's Hebrew class at
United Hebrew Schools.
Their volunteer work was
"no fun and games," Mrs. —4
Leemon says. Sorting
through the military equip-
ment outside in 100 degree
temperatures, "was not
play. We really felt like we 44
were doing something."
And when not checking
canteens and cartridge belts,
I
Mrs. Leemon was assigned
kitchen duty. She admits she
was a tough boss for her
fellow worker, Ofer, who I
took little interest in mopp-
ing and scrubbing.
"I told him that every
work is important and every I
work is worth doing well,"
she says. "I wanted that kit-
chen spotless."
44
Mrs. Leemon wasn't sure
her words were sinking in . _
until one afternoon when
Ofer approached her. "Come
and see," he said, leading
her to the kitchen. "You see
it's shining."
From then on, Ofer began 44
referring to Mrs. Leemon as
"Sabta Frieda," Grand-
mother Frieda.
"That caught on," she
says. "Soon everybody was

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