A canceled trip to Morocco led a Maryland dentist and his wife to use their scheduled time off to go to Israel nine days after Hamas initiated a surprise attack on a music festival, which killed about 1,400 people, to support the country’s soldiers.
Dr. Gary Bauman, who has practiced at the Baltimore Center of Advanced Dentistry in Lutherville for more than two decades, and his wife Sherri brought Israeli soldiers donations of much-needed oral hygiene products. The couple aided in disseminating several thousand toothbrushes and compact toothpastes, which were supplied by Benco Dental, to the troops.
“We have lots of family and friends there,” Bauman told DrBicuspid.com. “When the war broke out, we decided we need to be there to support them and to volunteer to help in any way possible.”
After Hamas attacked festivalgoers on October 7, Israel mobilized 335,000 troops in two days. Soldiers told Bauman that when they arrived to report for duty, they were told to leave their personal belongings behind so they could make extra room on the buses that would transport them to the front.
“Of course, this meant that even those who brought their toiletries with them did not have anything when they made it to the front,” Bauman said. “I saw a report that the soldiers were well equipped but lacked toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant. I knew I could help out (with) the first two items,” he said.
That’s when the dentist turned to Benco, which has been his primary supplier for 25 years. The company couldn’t have been more accommodating, getting the supplies together in a day, Bauman said.
"Benco Dental and our philanthropic arm, the Benco Family Foundation, have long supported oral health initiatives worldwide, especially where people are suffering in dire conditions ranging from poverty to conflict,” Edward Kobesky, Benco’s head of content, told DrBicuspid.com.
Once in they were in Israel, Bauman and Sherri went to some of the rear staging bases and met soldiers there. The oral care products they had procured were delivered to the front, where troops were gathering for the ground invasion of Gaza.
“Getting something they could relate to home put a smile on their faces,” Bauman said. “They also thanked my wife and I profusely for coming from the U.S. in their time of need.”
While the couple lived in Israel in the 1980s and '90s, they experienced some differences during their 12-day trip, specifically having to be aware of how to get to the closest safe room or shelter, Bauman said.
Though they spent most of their time in Jerusalem, which is considered a safe part of the country, the couple did have to take shelter on their first day. About 30 minutes after they arrived at the place where they were staying, they heard a siren indicating missiles were coming toward them, Bauman said.
“On that first day, we went into our safe room, closed the door, and subsequently heard three loud booms in succession,” Bauman said. “This was the iron dome air defense system taking down the missiles. We later heard that they were aimed at a neighborhood about three miles away from us.”