A small girl with a big heart raises funds for the Michael Levin Base

Michael had always spoken about his dream to provide support for lone soldiers, which he himself lacked while in the army – and The Base does just that.

 CHAYA RECEIVES a Certificate of Appreciation from The Base. (photo credit: KEELEY NEWMAN)
CHAYA RECEIVES a Certificate of Appreciation from The Base.
(photo credit: KEELEY NEWMAN)

As she approached her bat mitzvah, Chaya Newman knew she didn’t want the occasion to pass without doing something significant to mark it.

On her walk to school in Netanya each morning, she’d often see the same young female soldier, turned out smartly in her uniform, making her way to base. “One day, I’m going to look like her in my uniform,” she told her mother.

Chaya’s interest in, and love of the IDF grew from there and so, doing something relating to the army seemed like a natural fit when it came to her bat mitzvah project.

Having read about Michael Levin, the American-born lone soldier who was tragically killed in battle in Lebanon at the tender age of 22, Chaya decided to raise money for the base which was set up in his memory – The Michael Levin Base (or The Base, as it is affectionately known).

Michael had always spoken about his dream to provide support for lone soldiers, which he himself lacked while in the army – and The Base does just that. It also supports over 300 young women each year, from all over the world, who come to Israel, make aliyah and do National Service (Sherut Leumi).

Chaya felt a special bond with Michael, as like her, he was small in stature, yet strong and tough: “Much like Israel, Michael was tiny, his father, Mark said, “but on his five foot, six-inch frame, he carried the gumption and troublemaking capabilities of 10 men,” Harriet, his mother added.

Chaya is much the same as her hero in that regard; a wee slip of a girl, who is very athletic and loves to skateboard and surf. She’s also very artistic, and it was this talent that she harnessed for the bat mitzvah project which ultimately would help to raise funds for The Base and make a difference to other lone soldiers, as Michael had wished.

Chaya’s parents encouraged and helped her with the project, seeing it as an important introduction to a life of chesed (kindness) and tzedakah (charity); doing something meaningful – which required both time and effort – to mark this important milestone in her life, seemed like the perfect opportunity.

For the project, Chaya designed 12 images, one for each year of her young life, which were then transformed into postcards and sold to raise money.

Each image depicts something significant to her, whether it be her favorite TV program, The Simpsons, (the first postcard has a drawing of Homer Simpson in IDF uniform, holding a gun) or her favorite ice cream shop, Golda (another is a play on the Golda logo, her family’s “go-to” when a celebration treat is called for).

Once the cards had been designed and printed, two selling drives were organized by her mum, Keeley; one in their native hometown, London, and the other in their new hometown, Netanya.

The response was phenomenal, Keeley told me, not only from people who were keen to buy the cards. Often the purchasers gave extra to enhance Chaya’s fundraising efforts, including people from her school too.

So impressed were the teachers by Chaya’s intuition and creativity, they arranged a special assembly at which she spoke in Hebrew (quite an achievement in itself considering the family only made aliyah last year), telling everyone about her idea and how it came about.

Raising money

HAVING RAISED a significant amount of money (NIS 16,000), Chaya traveled with her family to The Michael Levin Base in Jerusalem on her Hebrew birthday to present it to them.

The regular Thursday night event at The Base, to which lone soldiers are invited to come along to eat, socialize and relax, was turned over to Chaya, as her family sponsored the evening. They asked her to choose the food and made a big fuss over her when she arrived with her parents, grandparents, younger sisters and brother in tow (she’s the oldest of four).

The place was full of young people – lone soldiers not in uniform, enjoying a night out – who treated her like a celebrity. Upon handing over her donation money, Chaya was presented with a certificate and a goody bag to take home.

She was in her element – all her hard work had paid off. And it didn’t stop there.

The whole family returned to The Base the next morning to join the soldiers once again; this time for breakfast. Afterward, they wandered around Jerusalem, soaking up its unique, Friday morning atmosphere.

On their travels, they popped into Gabrieli Hand Weaving, a store that sells beautiful handwoven tallitot (prayer shawls) and Judaica. As they looked around, Chaya noticed a photograph of Michael Levin on the wall.

She told the shop owner, Ori Gabrieli, that she and her family had just come from The Base. To her great surprise, he asked her if she was the girl who had designed the cards. When she confirmed that she was, he pulled out his phone to show them a photograph that he’d just received – of Chaya herself.

It came from the WhatsApp group for board members of The Base, of which, by sheer coincidence, he was one. Everyone there had been so impressed by Chaya’s efforts, a message was sent to all of them about her wonderful achievements.

Gabrieli’s involvement with The Base stemmed from his good friendship with Michael Levin those years ago and his subsequent ongoing, close relationship with his family. Chaya was delighted – she left the shop with a big smile on her face, a small gift in her hand and an abundance of pride in her heart.

And the cherry on top of the icing on the cake for Chaya, was a request from The Base to design their Purim cards too! 

If you’d like to help lone soldiers by raising money for The Michael Levin Base, or are interested in buying Chaya’s Purim cards, visit their website: https://themichaellevinbase.org/.

The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Israel where she works at The Jerusalem Post.