Sariba Feinstein lone soldier.
(photo credit: YOSSI GAMZU)
Over 6,000 lone soldiers from around the world gathered at the Shefayim Water Park near Netanya on Thursday for a day of festivities organized by Friends of the IDF for the army’s annual soldier appreciation week. “Lone soldier” is the term used for those who serve in the IDF without the support of family in Israel.
The third annual “Fun Day” was designed by FIDF and Yahad- United for Israel's Soldiers to provide soldiers with “respite from their daily routine as well as to express gratitude and appreciation for their unique contribution to the country,” read a statement by the organization.
One of those participating in FIDF’s “Fun Day” was Sariba Feinstein who is serving in the co-ed Caracal Battalion.
Feinstein moved to Israel from Postville, Iowa, after she came to Israel on a Birthright trip at the age of 22.
“I kept finding excuses to stay and to prolong my trip,” she said, adding that she finally went back to the United States seven months later but “only for one month to pack up my things and say goodbye to my family and friends.”
Feinstein – who has an older sibling who served in the US Army with the 10th Mountain Division and a younger brother currently serving in the 101st Airborne Division – told The Jerusalem Post
that while she wanted to serve right after she moved to Israel, she had initially been rejected from the army because of her age.
“I was told that at 23 years old I was too old, and I accepted that. I didn’t know I had to be pushy in Israel.”
Two years after she first tried to enlist, Feinstein was working in the Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan and while “everything was going great, there was something that was missing, there was something I needed to do,” she recalled.
Going back to the induction center she told the Post
that she didn’t leave until she got her draft letter and after eight months of emails and meetings she finally succeeded, but that it was a “whole other process” to get into a combat unit.
Feinstein said that while she didn’t come from a military family, she and her siblings were raised with patriotism and loyalty to their country.
Serving in the Caracal Battalion stationed along the Egyptian border, Feinstein said she wanted a meaningful and challenging service.
“I thought that by serving in a combat unit that I would be able to give the most of myself. I could have done something easy but I wanted something that would be a challenge.
“We each had our different reasons for joining,” she continued, adding that “at the beginning, me and my brothers used to compare and contrast armies. But while both armies have the same goal of protecting their countries, they are very different and so it’s hard to compare.”
Asked what message her brothers give her, she doesn’t hesitate: “They tell me to watch my back and keep safe. I always do.”