3 North Texans share some of their IDF times
By Sharon Wisch-Ray
First of several reports on North Texas Lone Soldiers
Editor’s note: For some soldiers, the IDF prohibits use of their full names for security reasons. For the purposes of this story, the TJP is using the initials of three Lone Soldiers, VK, MR and RY.
Over the years, the North Texas area has provided its share of young Jewish adults to help protect Israel. Known as Lone Soldiers, there are currently nine North Texans serving in the IDF known to the TJP at press time.
Not all Lone Soldiers choose to make aliyah, but many do.
Recently two Lone Soldiers on their monthlong leave, and their moms, shared some of their experiences and challenges as troops living in a foreign country without their family. A third mother shared her experiences as they relate to her son’s Lone Soldier experience, and her son shared his insights via WhatsApp.
VK began her journey in Israel as a high school student in boarding school at age 14. Afterward, she made many friends and connections. She decided she wanted to give back to the country, make aliyah and draft into the army. At the time, she was in combat and search and rescue, where she was a marksman, but her job has since changed. As a marksman, VK can shoot from 300 meters. Initially she was interested in being a combat medic, but they didn’t have space. Later, the IDF identified that VK was one of the top shooters. She was one of the nine out of 90 selected. As someone left-handed, that posed some particular challenges since the guns are set up for right-handed folks.
“When you are holding the gun with your left hand, all the things you need are on the other side,” VK explained. She explained that it took a while to get used to, especially during speed competitions.
VK’s mom said that her family is very proud of the commitment she’s made.
“I think it’s fabulous, I think it’s wonderful that she wants to give back to the country, and my husband feels the same.”
For MR, who is a twin, his mother says he was a Zionist from birth. When he graduated from a Dallas private school it was natural that he would be making aliyah. “This was always his journey, always … always,” she said.
One of the most challenging aspects for Lone Soldiers that all three agreed on is their ability to get everything done in the short time they have off.
For the Israeli soldiers, their parents take care of a lot of their basic necessities. Lone Soldiers have to pack all of this into a very short amount of time.
“Soldiers with family in Israel only have to worry about being soldiers, they know that when they arrive home for Shabbat they’ll have cooked meals and clean laundry and that any errands they may have needed to do were already done by their parents during the week,” MR told the TJP via text.
“My friends and I have to cook, clean, and run errands like going to the bank and government offices by ourselves and on the weekend, when most offices are closed for Shabbat. The army certainly does a lot to make our lives easier but no matter what they do, Lone Soldiers by definition will always have that added burden.”
VK concurs and says since she’s not in training she gets only one day every two months to get everything done: laundry, grocery shopping, errands, etc.
Support for Lone Soldiers: the FIDF
One organization that aims to help ease this challenge for Lone Soldiers is the Friends of the IDF (FIDF). The organization’s website states, “FIDF’s Lone Soldier programs support these most deserving pioneers — Israel’s best ambassadors — by helping them with the various challenges they face during their journey.”
Some of the programming includes Lone Soldier housing, mentoring, a 24-hour call center, financial grants, flights to visit their families abroad, Shabbat meals, holiday gift packages and social gatherings, among other things.
Once a year, on Yom Siddurim (personal errands day), the FIDF and several other organizations come together so that Lone Soldiers can complete a wide variety of errands all under one roof.
RY said that she received a $500 voucher from the FIDF before Passover and she bought some new pairs of shoes. VK said she used her voucher for groceries.
More mature than their counterparts
VK says that she has grown up a lot in the IDF. “I’ve become more mature. It’s a very maturing practice. You realize that you’re alone and you have to get all this done and do it yourself, so you learn not to complain about the little things.”
RY agrees; she also says she’s grown up a lot in the army.
“I don’t complain about little things like being cold or being tired. I go with the flow now I’ve learned that I can deal with things like that. Outside of the army I know that I have the ability to go to this government office, talk to the people there and get things done myself — something my parents would have done for me before.”
VK’s mom says she’s a bit envious of her daughter because she’s still trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life and VK at such a young age has figured that out. “Whether she realizes it or not, it’s monumental,” said VK’s mom. “What she’s doing physically and mentally with her life. They are giving their heart and soul to the Jewish people and the Christian world, protecting every important religious monument and historical site. It’s our 18-year old children who are doing it. It’s mind-blowing to me. They will be able to accomplish anything they want to do later in life.”
RY’s mom says she is extremely proud of her daughter. “It’s a dangerous situation. These kids are doing things that we as Americans can’t even imagine.”
VK says being in the army is a great thing and a great way to give back, and give back as a Jew. “Of course it’s going to be challenging but in the end it builds you as a person and I think that’s the thing that’s worth it. We struggle but we realize that if you can get over that you can do so many other things.”
RY says that in the day-to-day life of being in the army, she sometimes forgets the impact she’s making. “When I look back and am off the for the weekend I realize, wow, I’m doing such a big thing.”