Young Israelis of the year: Lone soldiers: No place like home

Lone soldiers No place

They come from around the world at different ages. Each one gives up something - a career or university studies. They all leave their families behind. They are the IDF's lone soldiers, the military's unsung heroes. One example is Meir Zeroual, 21, a new immigrant from Casablanca, Morocco, who moved here two years ago to serve in the IDF. Zeroual serves in the 890th Battalion of the Paratroop Brigade and fought two weeks straight in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead earlier this year. Another example is Zecharya Elkayim, 22, a new immigrant from Zimbabwe. After high school, Elkayim moved to Florida and started university with a major in Jewish studies, but the desire to live here burned inside him. Due to his parents' objections, Elkayim remained in the US to complete his degree, but two weeks after receiving his diploma he was on a plane to Israel where he now serves in IDF Field Intelligence. There are many others, like Arusi Madalya, 25, originally from Kenya, who lost his parents in a car accident several years ago. Then there are people like Sammy Bar-Or, who now lives in New Jersey but was once a lone soldier in the Paratroop Brigade. Bar-Or is a leading supporter of Friends of the IDF which helped fund, along with the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers, several days of vacation and fun for lone soldiers in combat units this year. "There is no place like Israel," explains Zeroual. "This is the homeland of the Jewish people and it is our job to defend it."