Losing an Officer, Lt. Alex Singer z”l
Yesterday, amid the quite grassy solitude of Mt. Herzl, I stood with members of my American teen tour group next to the grave of Lt. Alex Singer z”l and reminisced about his meaningful life. Over two decades ago, Lieutenant Alex Singer was killed in action in a terrorist ambush in Lebanon while rushing forward under fire with the unit medic to try and save the life of his commanding officer. It was Alex’s 25th 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. He was an officer in my Givati unit.
After Alex was killed 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. The title of the book was inspired by the observation by 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 one’s life. Alex lived a full life with no regrets.
Suzanne Singer z”l, Alex’s mum, once told me that 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.