Lone Soldiers: Israel’s Defenders From Around the World explores the phenomenon of non-Israelis who come to Israel for the express purpose of enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The book profiles 14 such soldiers as well as Tzvika Levy, the retired IDF officer who looks after these “lone soldiers.” Lone soldiers is the term used to describe soldiers who have no family or friends in Israel to support them during their IDF service. The lack of any kind of local support system makes the military experience that much more difficult.
The book is geared more to a younger audience, which is unsurprising given that its focus is on the lives of soldiers who are themselves teenagers. The motivation of these soldiers and the unique challenges faced by foreign citizens joining what is essentially a foreign army occupies most of the book. The motivation ranged from a teenage desire for adventure to repaying an unstated ancestral debt. Some of the volunteers were grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and although no one in their families suggested that these teens enlist in the IDF, the teens felt compelled to do something to balance their ancestors’ helplessness in the face of the Holocaust. All four grandparents of one of the Lone Soldiers, Ariel Lindenfeld, suffered through the Holocaust. Two were in concentration camps and two spent the war in hiding. He stated, “The Holocaust is one of the biggest things for me, thinking about what would have been had the army, the state, been around then. How impossible it would have been for all that to happen. And now that we can defend ourselves, I want to be a part of doing that.”
There are certain minor historical errors. For example, the author described the height of the second intifada as occurring in 2004. The height was in 2002. But for any non- Israeli teenager interested in learning what it would be like to join the IDF, the book is worthwhile.