Soldiers comfort each other at the funeral for Max Steinberg, the American lone soldier killed in one of the first days of Operation Protective Edge..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Honoring fallen soldiers is a mandatory annual ritual, and bereaved friends and family in the Diaspora who cannot attend ceremonies in Israel are excluded from this rite.
A recently launched foundation is changing this, and this May, on Remembrance Day, Israeli youth, IDF officers and politicians will travel to various communities around the world to honor their loved ones who sacrificed their lives for Israel.
One of the founders of All For One, Ofer Inbar, told The Jerusalem Post
that he was inspired by a story he learned while he working at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.
The former prime minister had ensured that the family of Daniel Haas, an American lone soldier who was killed in the First Lebanon War in 1982, was flown in from Cleveland for the funeral in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Military Cemetery.
Not all of Haas’s family was able to fly, as one of his sisters was pregnant. The following year, Begin approved funding for the flights of those relatives to attend Haas’s yahrzeit, the anniversary of his death.
Today, the government funds for the parents of a lone soldier to come every year and for the siblings of a lone soldier every five years. “The time has come to change that,” Inbar says.
Highlighting that it’s not just the immediate family who are affected, but also grandparents, friends and community members, the founders of All For One decided Israeli representatives should travel to Diaspora communities every year to hold official ceremonies to honor and mourn with the bereaved families and friends of fallen lone soldiers, in their hometowns and communities that have been isolated from Israel’s national day of mourning.
Next week the foundation will launch a Headstart crowdfunding campaign to make that possible this year, and they hope that by next year it will already have been passed into law and government- funded.
Lt.-Col. Tzvika Levy (res.), the “father of lone soldiers,” offered to be president, despite the fact that he is suffering from muscular dystrophy.
From his sickbed he filmed an impassioned plea to support the cause.
“Over the past several months, a number of people have been working on a very important project – official memorial ceremonies in communities around the world, whose children have served in the IDF as lone soldiers and have died during the Israeli wars,” he said. “I joined them in this important journey as the president of the foundation. I call on you to join the Facebook page All for One and help us promote this humane project. Give us a like, share the video and join your friends efforts in the project.”
Over the past 25 years, Levy has taken care of thousands of lone soldiers, finding housing for them and otherwise acting as mentor.
“I have dedicated my entire life for the lone soldiers and even more so for those who have died defending our homeland,” he continued.
“Join us so that we can remember them together. It is now our turn to contribute our share to their families, friends and communities whose children contributed so much.”
The initiative is swiftly gaining traction, with several public figures and politicians having expressed their support.
Levy’s video was shared by President Reuven Rivlin on Friday, with the words: “A moment before Shabbat, I am passing to you this request from Tzvika Levy, to give him and the organization All For One a hand in this holy work. You are very dear to us Tzvika.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked too joined in the call.
“There are special Jewish youths who live far away from Israel and who know the State of Israel from afar,” she wrote on Facebook.
“They learn about us, mainly through the media, but nonetheless they choose the task, which is not all taken for granted. They leave everything, family, studies and friends and move to Israel alone, to serve in the IDF.”
She added that in recent years a number of lone soldiers have fallen while serving, and thousands of Israelis have felt the need to support the communities they left behind.
“The time has come to commemorate those lone heroes,” she wrote. “Join this global initiative and together we will embrace them.”