Although most lone soldiers from abroad do not have the same experience growing up in Israel as their native counterparts, they tend to have the highest morale and motivation in their units, said Ari Kalker, a member of the board of trustees of The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin.
“The one thing that definitely is common to almost everybody is that ‘I was raised to be part of Am Yisrael,’ ” said Kalker, who was a former lone soldier himself.
He described their feeling as “I believe in Israel, I believe in the nation and it’s my duty to do my share.
There’s no reason why someone who is born in Israel should have to fight and serve their country and I shouldn’t.”
These soldiers, including Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg who were killed in Gaza on Sunday, all have a unique story of how they came to Israel, Kalker said.
“A lot of times they come from all over the world, including Israel, and you can get lone soldiers from the most minuscule, tiny Jewish communities,” he said. “They come from every form and every stream of religious background, from completely atheistic to anti-religious to haredi.”
But what the 7,000-plus lone soldiers do have in common is the need for a “national support system” and that is precisely what the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin provides.
Michael Levin had hoped to build a place for lone soldiers to go during their service. After he was killed in action in 2006, Tziki Aud, a senior adviser to lone soldiers and Levin’s friends founded The Lone Soldier Center in his memory.
“The idea is to get as many lone soldiers together as possible, to let the community naturally take form and build itself,” Kalker said.
The center, which serves lone soldiers from all over the world, assists them with all aspects of life.
Although they usually do not provide direct financial support, they organize meals, provide furniture, and regularly check in on them throughout their time in the army.
“It also allows us to be the big brother, uncle, or father to the lone soldiers in the army,” Kalker said.
“We’re in touch with them, we’re in contact with them, so they can let us know what they need and we can help.”
The help begins at the induction process, when center volunteers provide information and answer any questions lone soldiers have about the army.
“They really become part of the family – that is really what our goal is, to create a family – and it continues throughout their army service,” Kalker said.
Fallen soldiers Carmeli and Steinberg were “definitely part of the lone soldier family,” Kalker said.
“They were soldiers whom we were in touch with and were taking care of. We had a number of volunteers that were close to them,” he continued.
To memorialize Carmeli and Steinberg as well as the other fallen lone soldiers, The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levine plans to create a memory wall for soldiers that have been killed in battle since 2006.
“Their sacrifice won’t just be for the mission they went through,” Kalker said, adding “they were role models who will be used as an educational tool in our pre-induction seminars and their memory will be remembered. They definitely will not be forgotten.”
For more information or to donate to the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin, please visit www.lonesoldiercenter.com