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Idan Ianovici, Central District Director, Michael Levin Center for Lone Soldiers

Shelley Faintuch and her son Zev on draft day at Tel Hashomer army base in front of food tables set up by Center

Zev getting on bus into the "Bakum" the IDF processing centre


Volunteers at the Center provide advice, support, and a sense of support at Michael Leven Centre

by Rhonda Spivak, March 16, 2011

Over 5000 young people, including Winnipeg's Zev Faintuch are currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces as “lone soldiers” (chayalim bodedim)  -lone soldiers – the young men and women who do not have families in Israel to support them through their army service. 

During what is an incredibly grueling time both physically and emotionally, lone soldiers do not have the comfort of going  “home” during their days off. They do not have families to provide them with warm meals, support or advice. And they often do not have social networks.

Some, like  Zev Faintuch, who is a combat soldier come as volunteers to “serve and defend the one country that will always serve and defend Jews”. Some are young immigrants who come to Israel from abroad with little but their backpacks. (And some don’t even have those!) All of these young people are heroes in the true sense of the term. And yet many of them struggle each Shabbat to find a place for a Shabbat meal, the time to cook, wash their laundry and talk with their friends and families back home. These individuals are strong but even the strongest need support.

Faintuch is thankful that he hooked up with the Michael Levin Center for Lone Soldiers, which provides supports for these soldiers before, during and after their service in the IDF. Michael Levin, a 22 yr. old lone soldier and recent oleh (immigrant) from the U.S., was killed in battle on August 1, 2006.  Tziki Aud, founder of the Center, is Michael’s adoptive father.

"It is Tziki's spark that brings smiles to the most nervous faces among the crowd, says Shelley Faintuch who met him while she was in Israel.

Tziki's “staff” is a corps of dedicated volunteers, all of whom show their gratitude to the young people who put their lives on the line for Israel by being stand-ins for family. On the day of the "draft" (giyus) into the army , the volunteers at the Centre  covered  two tables with breakfast foods, cakes, cookies, drinks and gift packages. The young men at Tel Hashomer Army Base , hugged and kissed the volunteers in appreciation

Shelley explains, "They [the volunteers at the Centre ] provide vital information about the army, prepare them for their journey, celebrate their steps along the way (draft day, swearing in ceremony, graduation, etc) and provide for their needs - not just the physical: the Center also organizes massive Shabbat dinners monthly and holiday meals throughout the year. It tries to match chayalim with adoptive Israeli families or with accommodations for the duration of their military service; with furniture, with basic needs such as toiletries, with equipment, with social contacts, with 24 hr emergency numbers, …in brief with the supports that a family would try to give its own.

'Since we don’t have any family in Israel, I am relieved to know that that this organization of caring individuals is there to help my son,” Shelley adds.  “I just wish that more of us in the diaspora had information about the Center so that we could support it. Zev has met other chayalim bodedim at Shabbat dinners, and has connected with former soldiers who have been incredibly supportive.”

Native Winnipegger Emily Rose, one of Zev’s mentors, volunteers for the Center. A Gray Academy graduate who was one of the first delegates on P2K,  Emily made aliyah , served in the IDF and became an officer. She and her friend Koby have been spokespeople for the Center to various missions from North American Federations and have been like a sister and brother for Zev.

Shelley says  “I was so moved by what the Center does for our soldiers, that I asked what I could do for them."

The answer she received from Idan Ianovici, Central District Director for the Center was simple. ‘Please let people know who we are and what we do. Once they see the work and hear from the soldiers we have helped, they will know how to respond’ ”

For more information or to donate to the Michel Levin Center for Lone Soldiers:

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.