Beth G. Kopin
Inches to Metric: Zionism Through Design

Inches to Metric: Coming Home…

Mickey and Winnie the Poo defending us all! Photo courtesy Beth Kopin
Mickey and Winnie the Poo defending us all! Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

Coming home…

It’s so intensely personal being here. We’ve looked into combat soldiers’ eyes and hugged them, their wives, their mothers, their fathers, their children. I spent the morning with a dear friend whose daughter is dating a pilot, protecting our troops below in Gaza. We brought duffels full of soft squooshy animals (Squishmellows) to give to our friend’s and neighbor’s grandchildren. Each small child grabbed their stuffed animal, and has not let it go since, (so we’ve been told). I’ve kissed the hands of soldiers, saying how incredibly grateful we are for their service and bravery. Each one, (soldiers included) had tears in their eyes and thanked us for coming. Each one has a unique perspective.

The first Friday night we were here, we sat with two mothers whose sons were just released from combat duty. Both were exhausted from worry beyond my ability to truly comprehend. It was quite emotional. At one point, I stated the obvious which was, without their sons bravery and service there would be no Israel. You could have heard a pin drop at the usually noisy dinner chatter.

We took a recently released combat soldier (our buddy) to dinner with his wife. His job was to protect the commanders, he held the radio and gave coordinates to the pilots. He was in the midst of Gaza for months.

We got to know him when we did work together on the Lone Soldier Center (LSC) in Memory of Michael Levin in Jerusalem. My buddy knew Michael well and named his youngest son after him. We consider him a Ben Bayit, son in our home…

He we met?

Through a series of events I heard about to the LSC (now called The Base), and walked into the main office at the time. I said I was a designer and would offer my help should they decide to expand. My buddy was then the cofounder of the LSC. Within days I got a call, he told me they were planning to relocate to a larger facility on Yaffo Street and would I help. His idea was to expand the center to make it a true retreat/office center. By providing a place for soldiers to relax and get needed services the soldiers might decide to stay in Israel and create a life, make aliyah. Few US lone soldiers at the time were staying, most were lonely after service having no real community and returned to the US. I couldn’t wait to start.

We not only created the office/lounge but designed and built out two dormitory housing areas for soldiers, one in downtown Jerusalem the other in Arnona, a neighborhood of Jerusalem. After the center was created, my husband and I were invited to the LSC for a Shabbat dinner. Two hundred of the most gorgeous young vibrant soldiers from around the globe were at dinner. Before kiddush, our buddy gave us an inspiring photo of soldiers finishing their training with a standing O for our work helping them to build the center. We got choked up and said we did not deserve any thanks, it was our honor to help ease the life of our volunteer soldiers who so bravely defend our land. It was a mutual love fest…

Soldiers unit patches on a coffee table at the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin.
Michale Levin’s favorite quote. Photo courtesy Beth Kopin
Photo given by LSC photo courtesy Beth Kopin

We thought for fun we would treat our buddy and his wife to Harvey’s Smokehouse in JLem. We thanked him and his wife for their service. This tough soldier who takes most things in stride was embarrassed. He said he was doing his duty. He is our kids’ age with four kids at home. It’s a different reality here. He knows all too soon he will be called back.

I told him a story, the work we did together on the Lone Soldier Center had an impact from someone in our community from Highland Park. I was at synagogue a few weeks ago at Beth El, I heard a lone soldier was back on leave from the war to attend his sister’s bat mitzvah. I introduced myself. I told him we commute between Chicago and Jerusalem and recently became citizens. He asked us where we live. I told him Arnona near the US embassy. I asked him where he lived, he smiled and said the Lone Soldier Center/Housing in Arnona. I was flabbergasted, I grabbed  his arm and said I was involved with the design of the LSC center,  and additional housing with a buddy of mine… when you throw a pebble in a pond you have no idea what the ripple effects might be. He told me he met his best friends at the Arnona center and has made aliyah. When I told our buddy this story he smiled, we nodded to each other. Knowing…

Another day, we volunteered and went South on a bus to a farm near the Egyptian border and Rafeah (where we keep reading about in the news). We went to pick gourmet cherry tomatoes. I was so moved at the beginning of the war, I posted about some of the women soldiers in the tank corp, the group that saved many of the residents in the South. Before starting to pick the tomatoes the owner’s son gave us an introduction that his farm and area were spared from destruction because the tank corp women came and saved them…

Son of cherry tomato farmer. Photo courtesy Beth Kopin
Volunteer cherry picking mission. Photo courtesy Beth Kopin
Group of volunteers, background is a bomb shelter painted with cherry tomatoes. Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

After  leaving from the farm we stopped at a rest stop. Parked in the lot were many army vehicles. We saw two small stuffed animals strapped to the grill of one jeep. We smiled, I thought some small child gave their Abba their prized stuffed animals to guard over them.

Mickey and Winnie the Pooh defending us all! Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

Coming from the US  where all we read and hear about rising antisemitism, being here is a balm on our soul. Each time we are here we thank our friends who made aliyah and those who were  lucky enough to to have been born here for being the “Trailblazers,” and for building our magnificent modern state of Israel that we all know in our souls to be home.

We are emotionally exhausted, then I remind myself this is nothing compared to what Israel is experiencing. What we are finding is all just want to be hugged heard and feel better knowing they are not alone, that someone will listen to their story.

That was our first 10 days! You all need to come…

About the Author
Beth Kopin is a trained interior architectural designer from the US. She has experience in the design/construction world that spans thirty years, and works and lives in both Chicago and Arnona, Jerusalem. She commutes regularly between the two cities. She brings her work ethic, training and US standards to Israel. Beth has surrounded herself with extremely talented trades. Her design team developed a way to CAD (computer aided design) plans in both US and metric standards. This enables both the US born clients (some of which live in Israel, some as second homes), and Israeli trades to better understand the plans, ensuring a more fluid communication. She is able to help bridge the gap of cultural differences, manage expectations, relate often confusing metric standards, as well as all the basic elements of designing a beautiful and functional home.,
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