A Letter from A Lone Soldier
by The Lone Soldier Project
I attended a Lone Soldier Shabbat dinner this weekend with 3 friends who are also lone soldiers. I think their stories illustrate the many aspects of who we are and what we do. I changed the names and a few details to protect their identities.
The first lone soldier, James, published a book on statistics last year and is currently working on another on the subject of game theory at the ripe old age of 23.
Despite being offered a lucrative job after his graduation from Princeton, he decided to follow his heart, make aliyah and join the IDF. He knew that the IDF probably couldn’t give him a job that matched his intellectual caliber (which, among other things, includes fluent knowledge of Spanish, Hebrew, English and Chinese) but he didn’t care; he wanted to come and contribute.
You probably wouldn’t guess Jenna’s tough personality by looking at her. A tall blond with a shy smile from Virginia, she made aliyah and went from the airport straight to the army recruitment center, declaring her intention to join a combat unit. As you probably know, the army doesn’t recruit women after the age of 22, certainly not to combat positions, and Jenna is 24.
She didn’t care. She came to the recruitment center every day for a month until she finally convinced its commander to let her join the IDF. After finishing basic training, she was told that her unit was full.
Another person would have surrendered to her fate. But not Jenna. Two months and a lot of lobbying later, she is on her way to an elite infantry unit in the south, which means she would have to repeat basic training again.
Dima has a quiet disposition about him and gentle gray eyes which he says are common in his home in the villages of northern Siberia. The only thing that hints at his tough past is a menacing-looking shark tattoo on his right arm. The man is simply the hardest worker I know. At basic training where we met, he always volunteered for the toughest jobs and never, ever complained. He made aliyah alone four years ago and on weekends he washes dishes for ten hours a day for minimum wage in Tel Aviv and sends any money he saves to his family in Russia.
As I said, these guys are my heroes, but even heroes need help sometime. James is going to need help figuring out his place in the Israeli labor market after he is done and Jenna is facing a tough family situation. Two weeks ago, I helped Dima draft a letter requesting special financial assistance because despite working, he is still not able to support his family and make ends meet here in Israel.
This is where the great work of The Lone Soldier Project comes in. Even though you are in Boston and we are in Israel, we have so much in common:
We were all at Mt. Sinai together. We all cried for our brothers and sisters in Auschwitz. We all crossed the Red Sea out of slavery and we will continue to cross whichever seas come our way, together.