Sunday, January 20, 2019

Michael with his mom, Harriet Levin.

Lone soldier and volunteer.

(Courtesy of The Lone Soldier Center) In a quiet alleyway, overlooking the intersection of Jerusalem’s two busiest thoroughfares, above the wafting smells of freshly baked bread and the hustle and bustle of the city’s biggest light-rail stop, lies a treasure that is the quiet pride of much of Israeli society.

From the sadness and pain that surrounded the loss of Michael Levin, a lone soldier in the IDF’s Paratrooper Brigade who fell fighting in an intense firefight in South Lebanon in the opening days of ground operations by the IDF against Hezbollah forces in the Second Lebanon War, a group of Michael Levin’s friends, young men and women from around the world, all classified as “lone soldiers” by the Israeli Defense Forces, came together to create a living and moving force of good—dedicated to one mission, to help the next generation of lone soldiers.

The Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin—in the words of one of Michael’s fellow paratroopers—“embodies our hopes and dreams for what the Jewish people are supposed to represent, and more importantly, how Jews are supposed to treat one another. The Center is a helping, housing, feeding and guiding light, aiding thousands of the lone soldiers who come to Israel annually from Jewish communities across the Diaspora.”

The Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin was founded by a close-knit group of former lone soldiers in Jerusalem, to support lone soldiers serving today.

According to the IDF’s Manpower Division, there are currently 7,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF.

The importance of this motivated core of young men and women to the fighting efficacy of the IDF is evident from any visit to an IDF training completion ceremony—many of the most highly decorated soldiers in combat over the past decade were lone soldiers. This spring, as is done every year on Yom Ha’atzmaut, the President’s Award for Excellence was given by President Reuven Rivlin to the 120 best soldiers in the IDF. Twenty of those recipients were lone soldiers.

Visiting the Center on any given afternoon, there is a palpable electricity in the air, as tired uniformed soldiers string guitars and share army stories, while grandmothers prepare lunch in the Center’s kitchen. The soldiers will soon switch out of their olive-green uniforms for civilian clothes and plan their 48 hours of leave.

The Center is a place that these young men and women come to congregate, decompress and enjoy each other’s company. On one of the walls of the Center hang photos of dozens of lone soldier couples who have met at the Center, and since married. It is a home, a family, a community.

Today, the Lone Soldier Center operates seven lone soldier homes across the country, housing 140 lone soldiers. One of these homes is a first-ever home for female lone soldiers. Remembering Michael Levin at a ceremony for fallen lone soldiers at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill on Israel’s Memorial Day, Michael’s mother, Harriet, recalled learning that Michael slept on a park bench his first few nights in Israel. For lone soldiers, these homes are a dream come true.

To learn more, visit www.LoneSoldierCenter.com.

Please join members of the Bergen County Community on Wednesday, June 6, at 7:00 p.m. at RAIN Event Space, located at 399 Water Street in Teaneck. Learn how the Center provides support from a panel of soldiers across the IDF.

To attend, please email [email protected]