Lone Soldiers: From Russia with guts

At 25 years of age, Captain Victor Reichmann might possibly be the highest-ranking lone soldier in the Israeli military today.

By
August 13, 2010 16:29
3 minute read.
OUR MAN IN Karakal. Victor Reichmann was deeply moved by the book chronicling Israel’s greatest spy,

Reichmann 311. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

Victor Reichmann is not your average IDF lone soldier. At 25, he is slightly older than most lone soldiers but he is not the oldest. In the beginning of this series, we profiled a lone soldier who is 29 years old. What makes Reichmann unique is his rank – a captain – making him possibly the highest-ranking lone soldier in the Israeli military today.

Reichmann shies away from titles. After all, he says, he is just doing what every Israeli should do – defend his country.

Reichmann’s aliya story dates back to 2001 when his parents, who still live in Moscow, decided to send him to Israel to attend high school. No one in his family had ever been here before but his mother was a frequent attendee at Jewish Agency meetings in the Russian capital.

There she heard of Na’aleh, a program under which Jewish teenagers come alone to Israel for high school.

Victor was on a flight a few months later to Tel Aviv.

Being an outsider, he says, high school was not always easy, but still, he graduated at the top of his class.

At first, Reichmann says, he thought about joining Atuda – the army’s academic program, which trains soldiers as engineers or other professions and they then serve in important but, mostly administrative jobs. Victor couldn’t see himself tied to a desk job though. After reading the book Our Man in Damascus – which chronicles the story of Eli Cohen, a top Israeli spy who was captured and killed in Syria – Reichmann decided that he too needed to give more to his new country.

“In 12th grade I thought about going to Atuda and then I read the book about Eli Cohen, who left his family and went to Syria to spy for Israel,” he said. “I understood that instead of just doing what is good for me and my immediate family I can do more for the country, like Eli Cohen.”

REICHMANN TRIED OUT for the IDF’s elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit – known as Sayeret Matkal – but did not pass and instead enlisted into the 101st Battalion of the Paratroopers’ Brigade. After about 18 months in this unit, he was selected to become an officer and was placed with the Karakal (Wildcats) Battalion, a mixed male and female combat unit operating along Israel’s border with Egypt. Karakal soldiers are responsible for keeping the southern border safe and preventing infiltrations by terrorist elements. As shown by the launching of Katyusha rockets from the Sinai Peninsula into Eilat and Jordan last month, this is not always a simple task. Reichmann slowly climbed the ranks in the battalion from squad commander to deputy company commander and in a few months he will take up his new post as one of the unit’s company commanders. His parents, both doctors, have thought about moving to Israel – his younger brother lives here as well – but have decided to wait a few more years until they can retire before immigrating. “My parents are happy and want to eventually come live here,” he said. They are not so happy that I am in places that are a bit dangerous but they are proud.” Reichmann plans on continuing a career in the IDF and hopes one day to be the commander of the Karakal Battalion. “First, though, I want to be a company commander,” he says.

Does he recommend that other Jews from the Diaspora come serve in the IDF as lone soldiers? It is a difficult question since each case needs to be evaluated individually.

But, he says, the IDF is the place where he learned to distinguish between good and bad. “This is where I am able to contribute to my country,” he says.


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