Mordechai (Mordy) Botnick came to Israel from Ottawa, Canada and enlisted in the IDF, becoming, at 18 years old, a lone soldier with nothing and no one to support him during his service. Getting off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport with a mere $40 dollars in his pocket, Mordechai climbed into a taxi bound for the holy city of Jerusalem. After being dropped off at the Shuk (Mahane Yehuda), he found a small quiet corner in the market to lay down his luggage and grab a few hours of sleep. His journey had begun.
Getting up in the morning, Mordy called a rabbi whom he was told might be able to help him out. The rabbi invited him to the Yeshiva he was operating in that neighbourhood. During his two months in the school, Mordechai finished the enlistment process and shortly afterwards started his volunteer military service in Netzach Yehuda – ‘Nachal Haredi’ as a lone soldier. With training over, and with a few months left to his service, he found himself one off-weekend without an invitation to a Shabbat meal. Rather than being alone, he gathered some fellow Lone Soldiers in the same situation and arranged to have them all share the Shabbat meal. After experiencing success and continuing the meals as often as possible, Mordechai finished his service, made Aliyah and Chayal el Chayal was born.
Within a year, he was joined by his fellow former lone soldier Ari Abramowitz from Monsey, NY, who made Aliya with his family to join the Botnicks. Together, Chayal El Chayal – literally “Soldier to Soldier” – was created and has continued to grow and thrive from year to year.