Story of a lone soldier

In South Africa, he had everything that he ever wanted: a family who loved him, a maid who took care of his day-to-day needs and lots of friends.

Josh Carr (photo credit: Courtesy)
Josh Carr
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It is mid-afternoon in the Tel Aviv, and I am waiting on the corner of Dizengoff and Ben-Yehuda Streets for a former lone soldier, Josh Carr.
Though many people come from all over the world on their own to serve in the IDF, I’m interested in this particular story.
We opt to go into Dizengoff Center for a quiet coffee, where Carr tells In Jerusalem that today he is married, works in security and is a Krav Maga instructor. Growing up in Johannesburg; from the time he was a teenager he worked in security for both the Jewish and wider community.
In South Africa, he had everything that he ever wanted: a family who loved him, a maid who took care of his day-to-day needs and lots of friends. Yet this did not stop Carr from wanting more – he longed to become a soldier in the IDF.
Throughout his teenage years, Carr went regularly to Israel as a tourist, to study in yeshiva and volunteer. There was even a picture taken a couple of years of years ago of him dressed up as Spiderman at the Western Wall around Purim; Carr says this picture appears every year in The Jerusalem Post.
In 2009, at age 19, he joined Marva, an eight-week intensive program where participants take part in real-life IDF training exercises, live in actual army conditions (including camping out in tents and living on bases), listen to lectures and meet people from all around the world. This program was perfect for Carr, as it gave him valuable insight into what life would be like as a soldier.
Upon returning to South Africa, he had a recurring dream of living as soldier in the IDF. He kept telling his friends and family that he wanted to be a soldier and live in Israel, but they did not believe him. It was only when he gave his boss six months’ notice, and completed the necessary paperwork to make aliya, did friends and family know he was serious.
In January 2011, Carr made aliya. However, much to his frustration, it would take a year of working in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu and Kvutzat Yavne before he could join the IDF. Kibbutz life was a difficult adjustment for him, as up to this point, all his needs had been taken care of and he suddenly needed to be more independent and responsible.
It was at the Sde Eliyahu ulpan that he learned to speak Hebrew. Today, he reflects that even though the transition was hard, his kibbutz experience made it easier to adjust to army life.
His experience in the IDF, like any new life stage, had its ups and downs. In retrospect, and to his credit, he now sees these difficulties as times of growth, without which he would not be where is today. He points to the fact that the IDF offers its lone soldiers an ulpan that teaches army terminology and how to be a soldier: fundamental things such as how to salute, march and stand.
Carr joined the Shimshon combat unit and served in places all over the country, but mostly in the West Bank. He recounts to IJ a story that occurred during his field duty, which stands out in his mind as epitomizing his acclimation to the army.
One day, his drill sergeant called for an inspection. Earlier, he had been told to arrange his fellow soldiers’ bags facing a particular direction, and at the time Carr’s Hebrew was not fluent. It was five minutes until inspection, everything was ready, guns polished, beds made with everything in place perfectly, or so Carr and his comrades thought.
As the drill sergeant walked into the camp, he noticed something was not quite right. He called him over, explaining that the soldiers’ bags were facing the wrong direction. Carr responded that there must have been a misunderstanding with his commanding officer, and corrected the mistake.
Towards the end of Carr’s service, he was summoned to the Wingate Institute where soldiers are trained in Krav Maga, later to become instructors themselves. For Carr, the training was the highlight of his service. In fact, the high-ranking officers at Wingate requested he stay on to become an instructor.
The experience of serving in the IDF is something of which he is very proud. He says that in addition to developing leadership and people skills, his service enabled him to understand Israeli culture more intuitively.
However, he argues, there are things that could be improved upon. For example, many lone soldiers find that when they finish their service there is very little support for them to help them find jobs, and in negotiating other obstacles that need to be overcome so they can successfully settle in Israel.
Carr – with a few friends and the help of his father-in-law – is aiming to improve the conditions for lone soldiers post-army, developing an organization that will assist with networking, cheaper housing rentals and meeting new people, – easing the transition from army to civilian life.
He hopes that his own powerful sense of connection to Israel will culminate in a network of sustained support for others who want to make a valuable contribution to the Jewish state.