Growing up in New Jersey, Aaron was called “dirty Jew,” saw his friend’s home firebombed, and read all about the shooting of Jews in the U.S.A. His response: move to Israel and join the IDF. He’s a Lone Soldier (one who serves without immediate family in the country) in the Paratroopers Brigade.
Sophie was born in Denmark to a Jewish father and Christian mother. Baptized and raised as a Christian, she developed a keen interest in her family’s Jewish connection: her grandfather was a Holocaust survivor and her father served in Sayeret Shaked, the IDF special forces. “What started as simply wanting to communicate with my grandmother turned into a passion for Israel,” she said. She was already accepted into law school in Copenhagen when she decided to join the IDF. “Everyone saw me as crazy, including some of my friends. Some of them even disappeared from my life.”
Aaron and Sophie were among 20 soldiers who attended the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) national gala on Sept. 25 at the New York Hilton. They were saluted by some 1,200 dinner guests who raised a record $37 million to support the recreational, educational and religious programs of Israel’s military.
Staff Sergeant Aaron was stationed for two months at the Gaza border, where Hamas terrorists were sending kites, balloons and drones. He was tasked with ending this threat to civilians in the south using both conventional and electronic warfare.
“As a paratrooper and sniper,” he said, “I am that Lone Soldier, standing watch in the middle of the night. Actually, I was never alone—FIDF made sure of that. This organization touches my life by providing on-base facilities for exercise and prayer, and trips home to get a much-needed hug from mom.”
Cpl. Sophie was assigned to the air force. Her team has the first and last eyes on all the advanced technology of the F35 combat aircraft, the newest and most expensive fighter jet.
“When a pilot gets in, he is thinking about his mission. He doesn’t check to see if everything is okay. That’s my job. The pilot’s life, the success of his mission, is in my hands.”
Sophie was six when she went to the Western Wall withy her parents. She vowed then to live the rest of her life in Israel. She said, “Seventeen years later I know I chose right, proudly helping Israel fly above and beyond danger.”
This month marks the first anniversary of Operation Northern Shield, under the leadership of
Major General Yoel Strick, who today is commander of the ground forces.
Hezbollah had spent years planning a secret attack against Israel, known as “The Conquest of the Galilee.” The plan was to shift the battle to Israeli soil with a combined massive close-range firepower and ground penetration by an elite force named Radwan.
An IDF unit called Yahalom (“diamond”), of the Combat Engineering Corps, spent four years in preparing to thwart Radwan. It took 40 days of Operation Northern Shield to destroy six cross-border attack tunnels that Hezbollah spent years in developing.
“The IDF managed to protect the residents of the northern communities from a direct threat,” Strick said.
Strick introduced Major Yossi who led the effort to locate and neutralize Hezbollah’s offensive tunnels. At the time Strick gave Yossi’s unit a commendation and at the FIDF dinner he introduced Yossi to a standing ovation.