michael levin soldier 88.
(photo credit: )
A dedication ceremony was held in the capital on Monday for the country's first lone-soldier center.
The Center for Lone Soldiers was created by Tziki Aud, who has worked tirelessly to help lone soldiers for over a decade, with the aid of IDF veterans Josh Fluster, Shmully Rubishkin and Yoni Cooper.
The center was dedicated in memory of Philadelphia native St.-Sgt. Michael Levin by his parents, Mark and Harriet, who described the initiative as "wonderful... a dream come true."
Citing an increase in soldiers with families living abroad, the group realized the need to establish a center for them. "Lone soldiers" are those who either have no contact with their parents or whose parents live abroad.
"It's tough to turn a tragedy into a triumph, but that's what we're doing here in Michael's memory," explained Mark Levin.
"It's something horrendous, to lose a child," but positive things can come out of it," Harriet Levin said.
Michael Levin, 21, from the Paratrooper Brigades's 890 Battalion, was killed in action along with Lt. Ilan Gabbai, 22, from Kiryat Tivon, and St.-Sgt. Yonatan Einhorn, 22, from Moshav Gimzo, in Aita a-Shaab, Lebanon, on August 1, 2006.
There are currently 5,700 lone soldiers, IDF statistics show. It is hoped that this project will help lighten the burden for soldiers who are learning to adapt to a new culture and language.
The project is the brainchild of a group of veteran lone servicemen and Aud, a Jewish Agency employee who has been working tirelessly, on his own time, to make life easier for lone soldiers.
Cpl. Adam Margolis, an American immigrant who is serving as a liaison to the UN, explained that although Aud has been helping soldiers for years, it was only ever in an unofficial capacity. "I remember when I was starting the army I was told to fax in a page to some office" recalls Margolis. "For three weeks I tried repeatedly but each time I was told that my fax could not be accepted. I approached Tziki, who called them straight away. He introduced himself by his first name, and the people at the other end knew who he was immediately. The problem was resolved within a matter of minutes."
"Tziki has been helping out soldiers by taking them out for coffee and bringing them into his home for meals for example, but up until now it's been exclusively out of his own pocket. What is happening here is that all Tziki's work is becoming formalized, and that soldiers now have a place to go in downtown Jerusalem to head to, instead of Tziki's house in Pisgat Ze'ev," explains Margolis.
The center, located in downtown Jerusalem's Clal Center, in the offices of Tzeirim Bemircaz, will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and aims to provide lone soldiers with a place to meet other servicemen, free Internet access, a kitchen with a lounge to relax in, and a framework that offers advice, assistance and support. On Thursdays and Fridays, hot meals will be provided, too.
"We hope to give soldiers a place to come to and people who will listen to them. They are serving far away from their families and sometimes all they need is someone to talk to," Aud said.
"Maybe now lone soldiers won't have to be so lonely," Mark Levin said. "It's great that now they have a physical place to come and gather and be themselves, a place for these soldiers to call home."
The Center for Lone Soldiers will work together with the Jerusalem Young Adults Center, which was created in 2006 to provide educational opportunities for the 160,000 Jerusalemites between the ages of 20 and 34.
The center has set up a Web site at lonesoldiercenter.com and welcomes donations and volunteers.