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The Lone Ranger

Hannah Drori Kashi (28/04/2012)

He is called "the father of the lone soldiers" and is interested in strengthening the connection to their families in Britain. An interview with Tzvika Levy.

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“I lost my daughter to cot death, and Raful (Rafael Eitan – Ed.), who was the IDF Chief of Staff at the time, came to console me. He suggested that instead of submerging myself in grief I shoud try to find a way of helping others,” tells Tzvika Levy (64) from Kibbutz Yifat about what inspired him initially to become the Lone Soldier project manager for the IDF in the Kibbutz Movement.

He was pushed into the role that became his life’s work about 20 years ago, in the middle of his studies (water engineering), by Major General Yoram Yair, who said he was the most suitable person for the job. His work is documented in the book ‘Lone Soldiers’ by Herb Keinon (which can be bought in Steimatzky in Golders Green and Joseph’s in Temple Fortune). The book, written in English and also translated into Hebrew, tells the story of Levy and 14 lone soldiers (male and female) from around the world, who chose to volunteer and enlist for military service as fighters and were under his care.

His way of getting over his bereavement was by endless giving. On top of his own 5 children, one of which is an adopted Bedouin son (an officer, 34 years old), Levy is embracing, adopting and supporting about 970 soldiers (out of 5700 lone soldiers, including Israelis entitled for support) from Britain and many other countries. “I adore these kids,” says Levy who is still volunteering for reserves as a lieutenant colonel. “Who actually knows what it feels like being a lone soldier? The long nights in Nablus or Jenin... all alone. For example there was a 25 year old soldier, a postgraduate, who left everything and came to do his military service. He knew what he wanted and why he was doing it, but on a moment of loneliness the tears burst out.” With these descriptions Levy is trying to make the feeling of loneliness vivid. He completely identifies with his soldiers and feels the weight of his responsibility; his 4 mobile phones are always on, even during the evenings after he arrives his home.

“If they feel good, they will be the best spokespersons for Israel,” adds Levy. “It is also the job of their commanders and the adopting families – to make sure that on Fridays they will have food, clean clothes, get a hug, look them in the eyes and ask ‘How are you’ and mean it.” Levy not only expects everyone to do their job, he also acts on it. His job fills all his spare time, from morning to night he runs from one place to another in order to do all he can to reduce the loneliness of the lone soldier. He finds them a loving warm home in a kibbutz for the duration of their service and solves any problem he can, sidestepping bureaucracy. He also receives dozens of calls from worried parents from all over the world, who see him a natural point of contact to find out how their child is doing.

Furthermore, Levy makes sure that around 3-4 times a year the soldiers, especially the fighters, will receive packages with a fleece, gloves and many other items they need. He claims he has the organisational ability to get the highest standard goods for these packages.

Levy is aware there are around 20 other organizations helping lone soldiers and that the military doesn’t really have a clear policy about these groups, but he believes he sets the high standard for the quality of care. It will also be quite impossible to find anyone else to take part in 60km treks he does. “I put on my uniform and listen to them,” he says, “they speak to me as a parent - even things they don’t mention to their direct person in charge of their service conditions.”

A special visit to London

This May (7-11/05), Levy will arrive in London for a visit of the families of about 30 lone soldiers and let them know what their children are doing during their service. “They are the ones carrying the torch of building Israel,” he says. “They are a symbol to our soldiers, who don’t dare screw up around them. The relationships and beautiful friendships are heart-warming. A beautiful family – the lone soldiers. I also constantly keep learning from them. They have manners and respect. I keep in touch with them and they with me.” Levy will also visit local high schools to speak to the children and create a connection between them and the lone soldiers, by sending them letters and packages.

Eyal Landau, whose daughter volunteered for service, is planning to set up a system with the Va’ad Lema’an Hechayal London that will support the lone soldiers from Britain and help Levy and his blessed work.

*If you are interested in taking part, you are welcome to contact Eyal Landau on 07973121975

Read this article in Hebrew

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1. Michael ben Aharon Author in 17/10/2012:
Too bad he did not come (in our case) also to Holland. There are also Dutch lone soldiers. Should I have known about this, I would have considered travellling to London for the meeting.

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