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Underwear for a month: Lone soldiers and corona

As our wise, resilient children are teaching us, now is the time to see the bigger picture and put personal desire to one side

“I don’t have enough undies for a month!” My daughter laughed into the phone.

Like so many others, she will now have to spend the next month on her army base with no weekend breaks to return to the Jerusalem apartment she shares with other lone soldiers. She is coming to the end of her service and even has a ticket in her hand to come home for Pesach, obviously booked before Corona closed the skies.

“I’ll do whatever they tell me to do,” she said resolutely. “I’m just glad I’m not the one who has to make the tough decisions.”

Tough decisions indeed as the IDF has to take into account so many complex issues and logistical factors. This is a time when the top brass really shows their mettle.

I just received a text message that The Lone Soldier Program Office at Weizmann 60 Tel Aviv will be closed starting from Sunday 15.3.2020. Of course, one totally understands their decision and, fortunately, the emergency hotline is active 24/7 with details provided. As a passive participant in a number of Facebook and WhatsApp groups for parents of lone soldiers, conversations generally include practical information to help parents navigate the army system, requests for specific help for their son or daughter, advice on what to bring to an army ceremony, and messages of emotional support for parents of injured soldiers. COVID-19 has changed the focus of conversation and highlights the potential burden of lone soldiers from abroad on the army system.  [There are also Israeli-born lone soldiers, designated as such due to estrangement from their family or particularly difficult social circumstances. In many ways, they need even more support.]

As parents, we are concerned for our soldier-children, like any Israeli parent is. However, now we really feel helpless and fearing the worst, know it’s very unlikely we could travel to Israel to deal with any tragic circumstances. Disappointment that our children are unable to join us for Pesach has morphed into a mature acceptance of this new reality and gratitude for all the heartfelt offers of Pesach hospitality for lone soldiers. Personally, I trust that the IDF is making the most informed decisions they can, and have the safety of all our soldiers, and Israel’s citizens as their paramount concern.

Now is the time to see the bigger picture and put personal desire to one side. Our resilient children, wise beyond their years, learnt that the moment they made a choice to join the army.

About the Author
Sally Berkovic is the author of Under My Hat, now available on Amazon.com and abebooks.co.uk A mix of memoir, sociology, history, and acute observations focusing on Orthodoxy and feminism, this 2019 edition includes a new, 75-page introductory essay reviewing the extraordinary changes in Orthodox women’s lives since the book was first published in 1997. Her writings are on her site www.sallyberkovic.com
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