Thank you to the people of Israel from the mother of a lone soldier

On December 10, she will have completed a year of her 18-month service.

AJC's lone soldier Thanksgiving feast (photo credit: SHAY WAGNER)
AJC's lone soldier Thanksgiving feast
(photo credit: SHAY WAGNER)
I am the mother of a lone soldier.
My daughter, Ariella, went to Israel in August 2014 after graduating from Yeshiva of Los Angeles Girls High School. Her plan was to join the Israel Defense Forces as a foreign volunteer and, despite the bureaucracy and language barriers, that is precisely what she did. She currently serves as a sharpshooter in the Caracal Battalion.
On December 10, she will have completed a year of her 18-month service.
Being the parent of a lone soldier is not easy but it’s nothing compared to what it’s like for the young woman or man who is living thousands of miles from home; without much or any family to help them in the way that parents and close relatives do. After many days or weeks on base, there is no one to cook for them or do their laundry. They are completely dependent on public transportation which can add hours to their commute during their limited time off. They can be lonely and homesick while knowing that it may be many months before they see their loved ones. Too many holidays, simchas and milestones are spent apart.
However, while the difficulties are real, over the past year my daughter has experienced an abundance of kindness and generosity. While a good amount of that has been bestowed by her great-uncle in Ramat Gan and our dear family friends in Ra’anana, new friends and even strangers have showered her with warmth. With that in mind, I would like to thank the following: • To the woman at the Kotel: Thank you for asking my daughter for her name so that you could add it to the list of soldiers that you pray for.
• To the fruit juice vendor at Mahane Yehuda: Thank you for always welcoming my daughter with a big smile and calling her “Mefakedet” (commander) before making her a special drink that you never allow her to pay full price for.
• To the staff member at the Lone Soldier Center in Tel Aviv: Thank you for greeting my daughter by name even though you must deal with hundreds of lone soldiers and thank you for always asking her “Do you need anything?” • To the fellow customer at a restaurant in Tel Aviv: Hearing my daughter’s accent, you asked, “Are you a Lone Soldier?” When she responded in the affirmative, you said, “Then this meal is on me” and, despite her protestations, insisted on paying. Thank you.
• To the many people who have commented on my daughter’s red boots: You ask, “kravi?” (combat) and when she says “yes,” the usual response is “kol hakavod!” (lit. “all the respect,” meaning “good job” or “way to go.”) Thank you all for making her feel proud and appreciated.
• To Gitit, her Hebrew-language commander at Michvei Alon: Since my daughter’s graduation from Michvei, you have become a dear and supportive friend; inviting her to spend Shabbat with you and your family and offering much-appreciated encouragement as she navigates life in the army. Thank you.
• To Mirit, her group commander at Michvei Alon: Thank you for being a mentor and providing unwavering support to this day.
• To Tal, her commander during her seven months of training in Caracal: While just a year or so older than my daughter, you watched over and took care of her in a way for which I will forever be grateful. Thank you.
• To all of my daughter’s new friends in the IDF: I want to thank each one of you for looking out for her, making sure she has a place to go during her time off and for being precisely the kind of young people that any mother would want her child to be friends with.
When Ariella first told me that she wanted to join the IDF, I asked her why. She replied, “Mom, this is the Jewish People’s Army and I’m Jewish.
Just because I was born in Los Angeles, it’s still my responsibility to serve.”
While I am tremendously proud of her decision, it’s been extremely hard to be so far from my beloved girl. Yet, what makes it a little easier is knowing of the many, many kindnesses that have been bestowed upon her. May each person who has shown my child such benevolence have their good deeds come back to them many times over.
The author is a Los Angeles-based writer and communications consultant.