Lone soldiers' stories told through photos in 'The Cracks in Everything'

"Lone soldiers are the perfect example of how far people will go to find a home"

There are more than 6,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF with no family to support them and provide for them. They are highly motivated to serve the country with a large number serving in combat units. (photo credit: DR. BRANT SLOMOVIC)
There are more than 6,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF with no family to support them and provide for them. They are highly motivated to serve the country with a large number serving in combat units.
(photo credit: DR. BRANT SLOMOVIC)
Five years after Dr. Brant Slomovic first turned his camera to the lone soldiers serving in Israel’s military, his book The Cracks in Everything has hit the shelves.
His journey into the lives of lone soldiers began “with a simple intuition that there was something important for me to photograph and document in Israel” he told The Jerusalem Post from his home in Toronto.
Slomovic, an emergency medicine doctor originally from Montreal, explained that while he spent four years in Israel studying medicine, he never had the chance to travel and understand the country, but still feels “profoundly connected to Israel... Tel Aviv gives me more of a feeling of home than in Toronto.”
Home is a key motif in his book.
“Through interviewing lone soldiers I thought that I could understand more of myself because it is all about a search for belonging, which is a theme that is so common to all of us. Lone soldiers are the perfect example of how far people will go to find a home.”
“Lone soldiers are the perfect example of how far people will go to find a home.” (Photo credit: Dr. Brant Slomovic)“Lone soldiers are the perfect example of how far people will go to find a home.” (Photo credit: Dr. Brant Slomovic)
Slomovic explained that though he has a strong connection to Israel through his community in both Montreal and Toronto, he had not heard of lone soldiers before he started on his photographic journey.
There are more than 6,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF with no family to support them and provide for them. They are highly motivated to serve the country with a large number serving in combat units.
Over the course of five years, Slomovic made several trips to Israel and was granted access to photograph lone soldiers on military bases throughout the country. Able to spend several hours with them before taking their portrait, he was able to delve deep into their stories and choices of why they came to Israel.
“I had the luxury of time to speak with them and as a result connected to many of them,” he said. “Some soldiers touched me with their stories of leaving home and how brave they were to travel so far.”
“There were so many inspiring, heartbreaking stories,” he said. “A lot of my work focuses on culture and identity and looking at things and places and where or how we define our culture and identity.”
Through those conversations, the main narratives that have been featured prominently in his book came to the forefront: home, belonging, and contribution.
“Israel is a place of belonging, a refuge from persecution and antisemitism, especially for Europeans, and a place to serve,” he told the Post. Israel, he added, has “fulfilled two basic human psychological needs: contribution and significance, during a time when people feel less connected despite social media.”
 “Israel is a place of belonging, a refuge from persecution and antisemitism, especially for Europeans, and a place to serve.” (Photo credit: Dr. Brant Slomovic) “Israel is a place of belonging, a refuge from persecution and antisemitism, especially for Europeans, and a place to serve.” (Photo credit: Dr. Brant Slomovic)
But while thousands of Diaspora Jews join the Israeli Defense Forces as lone soldiers, hundreds return to their home country after they are discharged from the military after experiencing difficulties adjusting to civilian life in their adopted country.
“You know by the statistics that not all lone soldiers complete their service or stay in Israel, because they cannot integrate and now with corona, it adds another level of pressure and difficulty,” Slomovic said.
Though he didn’t intend it, his book came out during the coronavirus pandemic, a time during which lone soldiers in Israel have found themselves cut off from their family and friends in their home countries.
The ability to return to their countries of birth at least once a year allows lone soldiers and immigrants a moment to “step back and have that distance to recognize that Israel is what you want, despite the difficulties and loneliness that can cloud you from seeing that,” Slomovic said.
Despite help from the state and communal living facilities where lone soldiers can live during their service, at the end of the day their families are not at the end of a long bus ride back from their base.

 The photographs taken by Slomovic over the years for his book show the landscape of Israel and the soldier, alone. (Photo credit: Dr. Brant Slomovic) The photographs taken by Slomovic over the years for his book show the landscape of Israel and the soldier, alone. (Photo credit: Dr. Brant Slomovic)

“I did not want to shy away from how tough the decision is... I didn’t want to negate the fact that they are alone,” Slomovic said. “Israel is a tribe, and the army is a tribe within a tribe. And the lone soldiers are a tribe within the tribe of the army and of the country.”
The photographs taken by Slomovic over the years for his book show the landscape of Israel and the soldier, alone.
And there’s a reason for that. Because even with the sense of belonging and contribution, the subjects are not going down this difficult path with their family and loved ones.
“I did not want to shoot communal photos. I wanted to communicate that these people are undertaking this life journey on their own.”