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(photo credit: www.alexsinger.org)
Before every Remembrance Day in the 19 years since her son Alex died fighting in Lebanon, Suzanne Singer has been visited by a member of the Givati Brigade, where Alex was an officer.
"Just before Shabbat," she said on Sunday, speaking from her home in Jerusalem, "a young Givati soldier came to the house. I asked him if he knew anything about Alex, and he told me he had studied the battle he died in and had learned about the choice he had made."
In September 1987, on his 25th birthday, Alex and 11 other soldiers were dropped by helicopter about a kilometer into Lebanon to intercept terrorists on their way to Israel. Alex's commander, Ronen Weissman, a member of the first four-man unit helicoptered in, was immediately hit by terrorist fire. Alex, the other platoon officer, went in to help him, and was shot and killed. Years later, his family learned that he had been given the choice of whether or not to land, because it was clear the soldiers already on the ground were under fire.
Alex's story appears on a new Web site dedicated to his life and legacy, which was launched last week by the Singer family. His mother Suzanne stresses that "the Alex Singer Project" is by no means a memorial to a soldier who died committing a heroic act.
"We never meant this project to be a memorial to an unusual hero who did the right thing. It's about a person who had the resources to live a life led with a huge amount of intent," she said.
While sitting shiva, it became apparent to the Singers that their son had written a tremendous amount of letters, not only to them but to many people who had kept them because of their special quality. They also discovered that Alex - an artist with no formal training but with formidable talent - had kept army journals filled with writing and sketches, in addition to the words and images he constantly captured on any scrap of paper he found.
"We immediately realized we had something very precious, not just for us but something that had potential for affecting young people thinking about their lives as Jews, their connection with Israel, and all kinds of existential questions about making a meaningful life," Singer said. "We thought about the idea of setting up some kind of project within the first week after Alex's death. My husband, Max, gave it that name because we thought of it not as memorial or foundation but as a continuing work."
The new Web site, www.alexsinger.org, evolved out of Alex: Building a Life, a book published in 1996 that contains letters and drawings by Alex Singer.
Daniel Sieradski, the Jerusalem-based Web designer who volunteered to create the site, told the Post that he had done so because he saw its potential to assist Israel's public relations efforts.
"It shows the nobility of a soldier in the IDF, and tells about his humanity, about doing something just and right," he said. "I know people who made aliya after reading Alex's writings."
The Singers moved from the US to Israel for a four-year period when their two oldest sons were teenagers. Today, they are based in Jerusalem, and their three other children and 11 grandchildren also live here. Alex's older brother, Saul Singer, is an editor at the Post.
Part of her ongoing involvement with the "Alex Project," Suzanne Singer said, was her and Max's engagement with young people in both formal and informal education settings.
Two educational resources are available on the Web site: An educator's guide, and a 15-minute video presentation on Alex's life, art and writings.
Yossi Katz, who teaches at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education in Hod Hasharon, is one educator who makes frequent use of Alex's work.
"Alex's story is that of an unsung hero of Jewish history whose life carries with it all the ideals and values of a Jew dedicated to his people," Katz told the Post. "Sadly, he made the ultimate sacrifice, but above all he lived by those values. The greatness of Alex, beyond how he died for Israel, was how he lived for Israel," Katz said.