The Lone Soldier Project: Personal Stories
Armed with high hopes and unwavering determination, these heroes, our Lone Soldiers from around the world, serve and defend our one and only Jewish State.
Taking in hundreds of new immigrants each year, the #IDF is one of the world's most diverse militaries.
2nd Lt. Margot Lurie and 2nd Lt. Lev Cosijns, two of the newest officers in the IDF Medical Corps, one from Tokyo and another from Boston, find friendship and purpose in their service together. The army is a unique and challenging experience in a soldier’s young life, and the potential for lasting friendship is immense. Learn more >>
At the age of 29, Dan Yagudin had it all - the friends, the Miami Beach apartment and the promising career. But something was missing. Dan immigrated to Israel, joined the #IDF, and this week completed officers’ course with honors - at age 33.
Sgt. Noa Goren serves as a commander in the IDF unit responsible for absorbing new immigrant soldiers. Noa recently sent us her thoughts on her unique experience working with IDF soldiers from across the world.
Noa asks, “What can unify a squad that is mixed with French, Brazilians, Italians and Australians, if not learning the Hebrew language and sharing a goal? I need to consider that these new immigrants are arriving frightened, and it is my responsibility to know where to start and how to begin working with them.”
By Max Levine, Massachusetts
Prior to the night of April 11, I had never heard of The Lone Soldier Project. I did not know what it was or how it worked. When I entered the room I heard whispers of “there’s an Israeli soldier over there” and hearing that I assumed that she was Israeli.
Not until Shoshi had explained a little background on The Lone Soldier Project™ did I really understand how it worked and that she had actually grown up here in the North Shore, and that The Lone Soldier Project™ itself had been founded by a member of the very synagogue I was sitting in.
I found that what she had done had meaning to her and the people around her, that her journey was life changing. I found the program very interesting and unique; it was unlike anything I had ever heard of before. I like that the project helps its participants find their roots and a religious identity in themselves while serving a country that they love.
Karen was raised by a very Zionist family in London, England. She came to Israel in August 2009 because she could no longer bear the amount of Zionism searing inside of her. She felt like she was going to explode!
Once Karen joined the IDF, she became an artillery instructor and trained soldiers to drive mobilized artillery tanks. Because she loved this experience, she decided to become an officer. She enrolled into the officers’ course and was recommended to work in the foreign relations department after eight months as an officer. She was in charge of sharing information between IDF ground forces and other armies around the world.
Karen remembers how difficult it was for her to become an officer. She did not understand Hebrew well at first and was very unfit. “I was thrown out of the course three times. I eventually improved my fitness test by seven minutes in one month and made the cut. This was the best moment in my life.” Karen rejoices.
Karen also recalls her adverse emotions during her officers’ course graduation ceremony, “My parents didn’t come! I literally stood there and started crying.”.
Karen hopes to continue to do well in the army and eventually work for the Ministry of Defense. “At first, I didn’t want to stay in this country, but now I am obsessed with Israel. I never thought I would make it this far.” Karen confesses.
Yoseff believes that freedom isn’t free and that everyone should give of themselves for their country. At first, he was torn between enlisting in the American army or the Israeli army. His mother finally convinced him to join the IDF. His fondest memory is when he received his beret that symbolized that he became a member of Givati – an infantry brigade. After completing a long walk that was very difficult, he was handed the honorable purple beret by his platoon commander to celebrate his triumph.
Yoseff admits that it was difficult for him to acclimate to Israeli culture. He admits, “Israelis are very different from Americans, " as the cameraderie between them is like a of brotherhood. As a Lone Soldier, this can make one feel isolated. But the common purpose for which they serve unites the Israelis and the Diaspora Jews together in a unified army experience.
“I can say that some of the things I’ve done are more difficult than what anyone I know has completed. I have walked for 10 days straight, trekking all night long with no sleep. I would rest for 20 minutes here and there and could only eat as much as I could fit in my bag. Since my bag already weighed 80 pounds, I made sure to pack scarcely. I lost 10 pounds by the end of this hike.”
Yoseff has almost completed his service and is thinking about working in the U.S.A. afterward. He believes that this experience builds character like none other.
This Soldier grew up in Florida and was never really involved with Jewish activities or anything related to Israel. Growing up, he never even visited Israel with his parents. He discovered Israel during a birthright trip while he was an undergraduate at Harvard College.
He was immediately fascinated by the Israeli culture and knew that at some point in his life, he wanted to return to this land. He didn’t know when this opportunity would arise, but a seed had been planted.
After graduating with a degree in Finance, he moved to New York and started working at an investment-banking firm, but something did not feel right.
This Soldier admits, “I was not fulfilling myself or anyone else. I didn’t want to be stuck in this life. I yearned to do something meaningful and didn’t want to let the years go by without doing something special. You only have one life to live.”
He continued, “All of these thoughts brought me back to my time in Israel. I wanted to learn more about making Aliyah and becoming an Israeli citizen.”
He decided to join a volunteer unit called Mahal. Then, thanks to the guidance of the Lone Soldier Center, he was able to work his way towards joining an elite air force search and rescue unit called Unit 669. “The tryouts for this unit were physical and mental,” he confesses. "They were extremely competitive and only the very best make it.”
“I am very excited to potentially save lives. When and if the time comes, I will rescue not just Israeli soldiers, but also civilians in Israel and around the world. This is a dream come true!"
This Soldier must complete at least one year of training in order to become a member of Unit 669. “My one essential goal is to work and study very hard in the army to master the skills necessary in order to undertake this very intensive tactical and medically oriented role that will save lives.”