Click on ‘play in new window’ below to hear a special* song sung by the Israel Defense Forces. This song I dedicate to all of Israel’s Soldiers.
Sites and Resources
Click on the images below to access the corresponding sites
The Official Israel Defense Forces Website
Israel Defense Forces Information Site
Yashar LaChayal Israeli Soldier Charity Organization
The Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center
As of January, 2010, there are over 5,000 “chayalim bodidim” or “lone soldiers” serving in the IDF.
They are considered “lone” soldiers because they have come to Israel to serve in the IDF, while their families live abroad. They come from France, England, South Africa, the United States, Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Russia and Brazil – nearly every country with a sizable Jewish population has idealistic young people serving as lone soldiers in the IDF.
The stories of a handful are below – to give a taste of their lives and experiences, before, during, and after their army service.
Childhood friends since kindergarden, Ben and Itai left behind their families and friends in Boston Massachusetts to move to Israel and serve in the IDF. Graduates of Maimonides High School, Ben and Itai made Aliyah with Garin Tzabar and during their training, Ben was selected for a special anti-tank unit, while Itai equally excelled and was sent to commanders course.
Upon completing the course Itai was assigned to lead a squad in the 50th Battalion of Nahal. Ben’s high levels of motivation and physical fitness made him stand out among his peers. His officers sent Ben to courses in Krav Maga and Urban Warfare instruction – qualifying him to teach these tactics to soldiers in their final months of training. Ben and Itai plan on studying at Hebrew University after having lived in Jerusalem for the majority of their army service.
Yehuda made Aliyah in 2006 after completing his B.A. in political science at the University of Indiana. Yehuda came to Israel with the Garin Tzabar Program, and lived on Kibbutz K’far HaNasi in the North. He was drafted into the Nahal infantry corps and was selected to serve in the special forces battalion where he served as squad commander in Nablus and Jenin. Yehuda is currently a Master’s student at the IDC in Herzliya, studying Conflict Resolution and Diplomacy. He is involved at the Center mentoring those interested in the Garin Tzabar program.
- Amir(right) Dominican Republic, and Josh Nahal Haredi
Amir made Aliyah in 2005 from the Dominican Republic. Hebrew was Amir’s first language – both his parents are native Israelis who emigrated to the Dominican Republic in the 1970′s to work as consultants in the agricultural industry. They planted juicy and hardy watermelons, and also planted the seeds of Zionism in the hearts of their three children. Amir’s Aliyah came two years after his older sister moved to Israel, and his younger sister has since followed in his footsteps. Active in Chabad in the Dominican Republic, Amir began to observe Shabbat and Kashrut. Once he joined the army, Amir decided to serve in a Haredi (Orthodox) unit of the IDF where Torah study and a modesty laws are observed. Amir recently finished his service and is in his first year of studies at Bar Ilan University.
- Jacob, his brother Josh, and Gabi Ashkenazi, IDF Chief of Staff
Jacob made aliyah alone from Phoenix, Arizona when he was 16 years old. Prior to his enlistment to the army in 2006, Jacob studied for a year at Hebrew University’s Mechina, a college-preparatory program. He then spent a year at Elisha, a religious military-preparatory academy, where he prepared physically and spiritually for his army service. Jacob has distinguished himself throughout his army service- he was honored as his Batallion’s outstanding soldier, and was then nominated and received the President’s Award for Excellence from Shimon Peres in 2008. Jacob completed officer’s training school in June and then returned to his combat company as an officer.
Jay is a native of Chicago, Illinois. He attend Ida Crown Academy, and Yeshiva University. After graduating college, Jay came to Israel on his own, and made Aliyah after spending a few months getting to know the country. Jay was accepted both into the Paratroopers Brigade and into the Special Forces Battalion of “Palchan.” His units specializes in small explosive charges used during missions to open doors and to destroy arms caches. Jay recently spoke at numerous schools across the north eastern United States and in Chicago about his experiences in the army. Jay is very thankful for the support he got during his Aliyah process from former lone soldiers, and is looking forward to giving back in the coming months as he nears his discharge date.
Michael grew up in Sunnyvale, California in a Zionistic household. He was a member of Kol Emeth Synagogue and graduated from Menlo School. After spending a year on Young Judaea’s year course, Michael decided to make Aliyah and join the IDF at 19 years of age. Michael successfully completed his army service in the 50th Battalion of Nahal and is now a first year medical student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Michael volunteers his time at the Michael Levin Memorial Center ensuring that lone soldiers have a successful service and a successful integration into life in Israel.
David is a graduate of Central High School, in Phoenix, Arizona. He attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, and while in college became involved in Pro-Israel activities on campus. He participated in the Hasbara Fellowships program in the winter of 2002, and that spring, decided to study abroad in Israel. After graduating from the U of A, David volunteered on a Kibbutz in northern Israel, improved his Hebrew, and then enlisted in the IDF.
David served in 50th Battalion of the Nahal Infantry. Far older than the majority of his peers in the army, David was immediately thrust into a leadership role in his unit. David remains very passionate about Israel, her security, and her people. He hopes to find work helping immigrants adjust to life in Israel, and supporting soldiers as they finish the army. David has seen his two younger sisters follow in his footsteps. David, Jen, and Sarah all live in Tel Aviv, all within a five minute walk from the beach.
Zach is a native of Los Angeles, California. He is a graduate of Valley Torah High School where he wrote for his school newspaper, tutored at-risk youth in math and reading, skateboarded and played basketball. Zach was active with Chabad, and his studies led him to reflect on the importance Israel held in his life. In 2006, Zach made Aliyah to Israel and joined the IDF. Zach requested and was placed in Gidud Tzabar of the Givati Infantry Brigade. He completed commanders course within his first year of service, and was sent back to his unit as a Mefaked (commander). He led a team of four to eight soldiers on missions in Gaza and the West Bank.
In Zach’s last month of service, he received a special leave to meet his girlfriend Nechama at the Ben Gurion Airport as she was making Aliyah. Zach met the plane on the runway, and during the welcoming ceremony for the Olim, got down on a knee and proposed to his now fiance, Nechama.
Zach hopes to one day become a teacher here in Israel.
Yoav made Aliyah in 2006 from Santa Barbara, California. He came to Israel on the Garin Tzabar program immediately following his graduation from Dos Pueblos High School. Highly active in the Conservative movement throughout his life, he was camper and staff member at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California.
Yoav served in Nahal 50, a very well respected infantry unit traditionally attracting Kibbutznikim. Yoav did not come to Israel alone. He brought with him his identical twin brother Avi, who also signed up to serve in Nahal. Avi passed a try-out and was accepted into Nahal’s Special Forces, but an injury forced him to fall out of his team during training – he was then selected to serve as a firearms instructor at the Windgate Institute outside Netanya.
Yoav and Avi lived on Kibbutz Ein Harod in the Azriel Valley of northern Israel throughout their service. Yoav was trained as a sharp shooter, and spent long months on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and Syria. Upon his release, he led groups of overseas youths on educational trips around Israel.
On the Michael Levin Memorial Center:
“Being a lone soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces is far from easy; it means living in a new country and struggling with a new language and a different culture. It means coming home exhausted to a bedroom and having no mother or father to hug and welcome you back, no warm home-cooked meal waiting for you on the kitchen table; just an empty fridge and a bag of meager items that you managed to pick up on the way home. With the endless bus rides and the ever-growing pile of laundry, it is easy to wonder how different it would feel to come home to a caring family.
Tziki and the small group of exceptional volunteers at the Michael Levin Memorial Center have become my family. They’ve done so much for me at times when I have had no where else to turn. With all the hardships of being a lone soldier, Tziki’s presence, reassurance, and desire to help those in need, provide love and support – we get no where else in Israel. From the moment I met Tziki, I never felt alone or helpless again; rather, I knew that I had gained an ally and advocate that would do all he could to help me. When I was hospitalized after being injured during my army service, I knew that I could count on Tziki to be there to help, which he always was. I could always count on him for a warm, embracing hug a to make me feel better, or a phone call – a simple reminder that someone cared about me. And today, as I have been released from the army for over six months, Tziki’s help and the center’s support does not end- he is as willing and eager as ever to help me in my next challenges in absorption as a new citizen in a foreign country. I know that I will always have an invitation at his Shabbat table and that no matter what help I need, I have a friend, and now an entire Center there to help me. It is hard to be a lone soldier, however if it were not for people like Tziki, I cold not imagine how much harder it would be. On behalf of all the lone soldiers in the Israeli Army, thank you Tziki for the center you made for us, for all that you do and all that you are- a blessing to every one of us.
Erik grew up in Los Angeles, California and is a graduate of Beverly Hills High School where he played football, basketball, and ran for the track team. He is the first in his family to make aliyah to Israel and serve in the IDF.
Erik was drafted into the 932nd Brigade of Nahal Infantry, and was stationed on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and patrolled in Ramallah before being sent to commander’s course. During this course, he received his Platoon’s Award for Excellence. After returning to his Infantry battalion, Erik was soon accepted into Officer’s Training School. He received the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, and was given command of a platoon.
His next assignment was one of the army’s most coveted, instructing Air Force cadets in pilot’s school. While serving in pilot’s training school he received the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Erik Spitzer was released from the IDF on October 30th, 2009 after four and a half years of service. He will continue his duty as a reservist one month a year as an infantry officer until the age of 55.
The Life of a Lone Soldier
Each year, thousands of young immigrants and volunteers arrive in Israel alone, to join the Israel Defense Forces and do their part protecting Israel and the Jewish people. They are known as “lone soldiers” because while they fight for Israel, their parents and loved ones remain at home, thousands of miles away. They are heroes on a unique mission. They give of themselves for the benefit of the State of Israel and serve as role models and links to Israel for Jews around the world. The IDF attempts to provide soldiers with at least one Shabbat “off” (on leave) per month so they can rest and recuperate from the army’s rigorous demands. Soldiers are expected to return to the army refreshed and focused for the task at hand. In the case of nearly all Israeli soldiers, this set-up works. But for the over 5,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF, there is no parent and no warm home to return to on weekend leave. Many of them struggle each Shabbat to find the time and a place to cook their meals, wash their laundry and talk with their families back home. These individuals are strong, yet they need support if we want them to succeed.
The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin was founded by former lone soldiers aware of the problems lone soldiers face – and committed to providing the services and support lone soldiers need and deserve.
Click on the play button below to hear a special* song sung by the Israel Defense Forces. The song is dedicated to the Israel’s Soldiers.
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