Students And Soldiers: A Meaningful Encounter
Have you ever heard someone explain something and the way they expressed themselves touched something so deep in your heart that three days later you still had chills?
That is exactly what happened to me when I sat next to a former lone soldier one Sunday evening. Josh wanted to help the students in the room understand why he had made the decision to leave his life in suburban Washington D.C. and travel across the world to serve in the Israeli military.
When he said, "I decided I may not want to make Aliyah but any Jew who wants to live in Israel should be able to. I felt that I could help by picking up a rifle and defending the land."
Literally, I could not believe the simplicity of his words and the tremendous meaning behind them. Josh's unique ability to see his connection to the Jewish Homeland and want to strengthen it not just for himself but for all of us was truly an inspiration.
I looked around the room at the eighth and ninth grade students as they were listening intently to Josh's story. We were sitting together learning about the very real security concerns that Israel faces everyday. During his time there, Josh studied Hebrew, learned marksmanship and tactics, and even how to march.
He told us about the difficulties of being a lone soldier, having no family to turn to but also how the other young men in his unit became his friends. Some of the other soldiers befriended him immediately. Others initially thought he was crazy.
Several of the kids laughed but Josh explained,
"The soldiers who stayed away at first could not understand why someone would leave all that they knew behind and risk their life when they did not have to."
As time went on and they worked alongside Josh, they realized how much he truly cared about the land and the people of Israel.
The students asked a variety of questions such as:
- Did you meet other Americans?
- Was it hard to be one of the only soldiers from the United States?
- Did serving in the Israeli Defense Forces help your career?
- Are you still in touch with some of the men you served with?
Interestingly, none of the questions were in any way political.
This started me thinking.
There is often an emphasis on how Israel is viewed on college campuses. What if we could work with young people well before they are even thinking about to which colleges to apply?
Would increasing access to real individuals who have served in the Israeli Army help students understand that,
Israel will do what it needs to in order to defend herself?
That the IDF is truly an army made up of a people in search of peace?
Thank you to the Adat Reyim Congregation in Northern Virginia for hosting this important discussion and to Josh for volunteering his time. We look forward to bringing more Lone Soldier Project speakers to communities in order to foster thoughtful discussion and understanding.