They come from small towns and big cities: from Dunedin to Denver, from Rio to Hong Kong to Boulder, Boston and Gilbratar – communities large and small, weak and vibrant. Some are the leading students of great Jewish institutions like Frisch, Maimonides, Ramaz and Ida Crown, others have only learned the first half of the Aleph Bet. Yet they come, united and connected by their passion for the Jewish people, the Jewish land, and a desire to protect Jewish life.
First brought to Israel by a summer trip, an internship, a Birthright flight – the importance of the people, their people, hits them suddenly, or slowly over the years, until they come to a realization that they are needed in Israel. College or grad school, a fancy car or great job offers can wait; they must give and contribute first, and if need be, fight for everything they hold holy and dear, for they are slowly becoming adults.
The growing up process will quickly accelerate, not only in the army, but also outside of it – as they struggle to find roommates and furniture, find a phone plan, fight to cancel it, sign a bad contract with a dishonest landlord, learn to shoot, carry a man on their back up and down a steep rocky trail, insert IVs, fix the 3 major weapon jams, navigate, open tuna cans and come to love and hate halva and chocolate spread.
However they arrive, their lives will be dictated by who they meet, the friends and social circle they are able to connect with outside of the army, most likely made up of other lone soldiers from other units and other countries. Most of the boys will end up in combat units, the “tip of the spear”, combat soldiers defending the people and nation they set out to defend. Young women from abroad also fight in combat, while most serve as instructors, in tanks, mortars, army technology and are called upon to deal with the press and digest intelligence and plan missions that hopefully will never need to be carried out.
A few are lucky and come with a group of Garin Tzabar, a special branch of the Scouts, beginning life here on a kibbutz with other young Olim. Most come entirely on their own, and rely upon the Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin to help guide and connect them during their service. Founded by former lone soldiers – Michael’s friends, the organization has Club Houses, infrastructure and meals for lone soldiers in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Kibbutz Gesher.
These young men and women must adjust to a new life, language, country, and go out on missions, arrests, and fight to allow all of us, the simple citizens of the State of Israel, to live happily, safely and free.
Lone soldiers as a whole shouldn’t be viewed as heroes, for we are not. Max is. Sean is. Jordan is. Without going into the details of what they each stood for, fought for and did for their friends inside and outside of the army, the war they went into – their values and sacrifice make them and them alone deserving to be called heroes, “giborim”, for now and forever.
If we are a people, and yes, we are a people first and foremost, then we are one big extended family. And that word, family, and the families we come from is what leads us and inspires us to serve and go to the ends of the earth if need be, to protect the bigger family. My family, your family, our family, the Jewish people. Am Yisrael.
Despite the heavy losses we have suffered, we must stand together and strong, with our HEADS HELD HIGH. We must not fear the challenges that we face and that lie ahead, but have faith in G-d and each other. We must stay strong and resolute and not waiver for a second. We must continue to defend ourselves and our right to exist.
Shut out the thoughts and curses of those who hate Israel, who hate Jews, who hate freedom. Listen only to the voices of strength, wisdom and confidence.
Do not read, share or even respond to Slate Magazine, ignore Al Jazeera, mute or just turn off Jon Stewart, and all enemies of Israel, of Judaism, of freedom, happiness and goodness – they just don’t matter. What matters is the family, our family.
If you take away just one thing from this piece, please remember and act on that principle – that we are one family, family first, and at the end of the day, family is all that matters. Not nosach Sefard or nosach Ashkenaz, not fact sheets or Hasbara, not a photo on Masada. All that matters is remembering and acting, truly acting, as members of one large family that cares, loves, respects and supports one another. Take care of your family, and let’s all take care of our family, together, here in Israel, and around the world.
For more information on lone soldiers and how to become a part of our family, please visit www.LoneSoldierCenter.com