Soldier BoyHave you ever thought what it must be like to be a soldier with no family? You are placing yourself in harm's way every day and there is no one close by from whom you draw comfort. In Israel there is the notion of the Lone Soldier. It refers to people who are in the military who have no family in country. Many are new immigrants who have made aliyah alone, but others may be orphans or individuals from broken homes. While other soldiers spend occasional weekends and holiday with their families, upwards of 6,000 soldiers have no immediate family to support them. Federation, through the Jewish Agency, funds the Lone Soldier Center, which assists Lone Soldiers by providing Shabbat and holiday meals, creating community, and giving many other tangible and intangible goods and services to these young men and women. The goal is to allow the Lone Soldiers to know that there are people close by who care and who keep these soldiers' safety in their thoughts.
We were privileged to meet a Lone Soldier this morning. Mischa was born in Tbilisi and while he was growing up he took advantage of all of the programs supported by Federation dollars. He went to the Chesed Center and to summer camp. When he was 15 he knew he wanted to live in Israel, and Federation helped him achieve this goal as well. At 18 he joined the Army, as all young men and women do.
Next week will be his 21st birthday, and JFNA wanted to do something special for him. None of us in the audience knew what was in store. Neither did Mischa. Harold Gernsbacher, the National Campaign Chair, announced that we set up a Skype call with Mischa's parents so that they could wish him a happy birthday. The call went through and our Lone Soldier could see his parents on the computer (and we could see them on the screen).
Okay, that was sweet, but about a minute and a half into their conversation, the Skype connection went out. Ugh! I thought that Israel was all about high tech. How in the world could this snafu happen? And at the JFNA Mission no less! We didn't even get to sing happy birthday while the parents were on the phone! Could we get the call reestablished?
What happened next was truly incredible...and I assure you there was not a dry eye in the hall. Harold comes up to the microphone and says that since we can't get the call back on line, we would have to just settle for something else. From across the room in come Misch's parents, flown here by JFNA to spend Mischa's birthday with him. At least for this week, Mischa is not a Lone Soldier.
As a parent of two 20-somethings and a 17-year-old, my heart filled to practically bursting to see how happy Mischa was. The hugs lasted several minutes as we all -- every single one of us -- choked back our tears. Who could ask for anything more? That was pure love.