A few days ago amidst the quite grassy solitude of Mt. Herzl I stood with members of my “Write On for Israel” tour next to the grave of Alex Singer and heard his mother Suzanne Singer reminisce about the meaningful life of her son. Over two decades ago Lieutenant Alex Singer was killed in action in a terrorist ambush in Lebanon whilst rushing forward under fire with the unit medic to try and save the life of his commanding officer. It was Alex’s twenty-fifth birthday. Alex was a Chayal Boded “Lone Soldier” who had not only volunteered to a combat unit in the IDF after graduating summa cum laude from Cornell University, but also gone on to volunteer for the infantry officer’s course.
Suzanne Singer addressing the “Write On” group on Mt. Herzl at the grave of her son Alex z”l. Photo: T.Book (2016)
After Alex was killed, Suzanne told the group, the family decided that rather than build another memorial in a country that sadly has too many memorials for young boys and girls who paid the ultimate price to keep the Zionist dream alive, they would gather his writings and amazing art and share with the world what Alex had lived for. The resulting book: Alex: Building a Life – the Story of an American Who Fell Defending Israel, (Gefen: New York/Jerusalem, 1996) is a must read for those who want to know more about this gifted writer, artist, and lover of Zion. It is an instructional manual on how to live a meaningful life full of light and beauty. Alex personified the statement by Gandhi: “We must become the change we wish to see.” In addition, a collection of Alex’s writings, artwork and an educators guide to his book are accessible on the Alex Singer Project website. Suzanne explained to us that the title of the book on her son was inspired by the observation by Rabbi Dr Abraham Joshua Heschel:
Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power…Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.
Amongst his writings was a poem written as he was nearing the conclusion of the IDF officers course. He wonders, “when the war comes” if he will have, “the calm power to yell to them, or to whisper Kadima (“forward”).” Most importantly, he wonders when facing the rega ha’emet (“moment of truth”) whether, “I will have to have the calm power to step forward myself.” Alex died as he lived, leading by personal example from the front. Zionism gave a meaning to his life and he gave a meaning to Zionism by his life, and ultimately with his life. It does not matter how long one lives, what matters is what one does with ones life. Alex lived a full life with no regrets.
Suzanne, her husband Max, and Alex’s family are also big supporters of the Lone Soldier Centre in Memory of Michael Levin. Indeed the walls of its Jerusalem branch are adorned with Alex’s inspirational writings and wonderful artwork. Thanks to the centers, Lone soldiers are no longer alone. None of this existed when Alex was in the army. The LSC offers many services for Lone Soldiers and is a “home away from home.” The centers operate from branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. They provide many useful services to Lone Soldiers such as, helping to finding housing, providing furniture, organizing Shabbat and holiday meals and counseling and most importantly a place to feel at home.
Suzanne concluded her address by telling us, “Alex loved his life in America His decision to make Aliya was not a rejection of the USA but rather, in Alex’s own words:
The purpose of my Aliya will be a combination of wanting a greater chance to make my Judaism one of joy rather than one of burdens, of wanting to be part of Israel’s development both as a state and as a beacon, and of feeling that it is the duty of the individual Jew to help the Jewish people.”
Alex continues to inspire. Just last week a newly released documentary on his life, To Step Forward Myself (2015) was the winner of best short film at the AJFF. Israel is a place where even the simplest things are often seen for the miracles they are. Suzanne told us that one way to honour her son’s sacrifice is to stay proactive, to always remember to be an advocate for Israel and always remember to keep our heads high and live life to the fullest. Alex z”l was one person whose made such a difference. Think what we can do.