As the largest resource for English speakers in Israel, AACI is constantly assisting members of our community from all different stages in life. Our vital programs and services touch upon every aspect of life in Israel and are available for students, families, seniors citizens and everyone in between.
Among the frequenters at AACI’s offices are English speaking chayalim bodedim, “lone soldiers” who have chosen to leave their homes abroad and serve in the IDF. Lone soldiers receive complementary AACI membership and are thereby privy to receive free guidance from our professional counselors on important matters such as: citizenship status, apartment searching and army-related issues.
Recently, a lone soldier came into our offices glowing with inspiration and pride. Nadav Weinberg, a lone soldier from Cleveland, Ohio shared his compelling story of his sacrifice and motivation.
To document his experience and inspire others, Nadav has started a blog about his armys service and the preceding events. He said, "About ten potential soldiers, after reading my blog, contacted me and were inspired to join the IDF." His blog is the perfect medium to reach out and help current and potential Lone Soldiers.
Nadav begins his story describing his roots with the following succinct introduction. "I graduated from Case Western Reserve University in May 2008 and made Aliyah to Israel a month later. I live in a Kibbutz in the Galil, close to Lebanon. My service in the Israeli Defense Forces began in November, 2008.
To experience vicariously what a young lone soldier feels, Nadav entitled Chapter One of story, Into the Wild.
He describes the significance of this title: "I wanted to title this entry after the movie in a symbolic correlation of Christopher McCandless's (the main character) journey to experience what he considered was his calling while surviving on his own--away from family and friends--to my ideologies in serving in the IDF, thousands of miles away from my family and friends."
"Experience" is much too mild a word to describe the intense, four day tryout for a coveted spot in a top commando unit. Nadav always pushed himself to be a leader at his university, so he welcomed the challenge of this intense tryout that "pushes every person to his limit and beyond". Imagine "NON-STOP crawling in full army gear over desert rocks, cacti, and thorns for hours at a time, then jumping up and sprinting from place to place. Mix in rotations of sit-ups and push-ups, and doing several miles of marches with a 200 lb "alumka" (stretcher) or a 40 pound sandbag on your back, and we're just getting warmed up for sleeping in stretches of only 2 hour periods". You can just imagine how bright Nadav's face shone when he received the news that out of 400 participants, he won one of the coveted 10 places in the commando unit.
Next, Nadav was asked to speak to the commander of his current platoon. In order for Nadav to stay in his current anti-tank platoon, he was asked to sign a paper extending his stay in the
army for an additional year. Nadav writes, "I spent the next two days talking with my commanders, asking for their advice, listening to their experiences, and trying to sort my life out. I wanted so badly to sign; I was already so privileged to be one of a select group of people in the world to serve in this elite commando unit of the IDF. My decision to move on was made after a very emotional conversation with my parents and hearing my father's stories about his service in the IDF. After hanging up the phone, the commander of my platoon approached me. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I reached into my pocket, looked at the folded contract, and handed it to the commander without my signature. I apologized and thanked him and the rest of my commanders for their time, wisdom and support and then said goodbye to each of my new friends in my platoon.. This is a decision that I will reminisce about for the rest of my life and a part of me will always regret this separation. Carrying all of my gear, I stopped at the top of the barracks, kissed the platoon’s sign, and prepared to begin my service in a new commando unit.
The transition to a new unit was initially tough for Nadav. With time, he found his niche with other American lone soldiers, perfected his Hebrew, had bouts of homesickness and learned to appreciate life in a completely new way. One highlight was an early morning 8 km march before sunrise with the entire sky blazing in order to receive their distinct army tags. Later that day, Nadav remembers being surrounded by friends and family at his swearing in ceremony as one of the most stirring moments of his life when he received his gun along with a Torah at the Western Wall. As Nadav bellowed his allegiance "Ani nishbah, Ani nishbah, Ani nishbah,” (I vow, I vow, I vow) along with hundreds of other soldiers his eye caught the Israeli flag waving in the wind.
With great emotion, Nadav concludes his initial chapter in his blog writing: "There is only one Jewish homeland, one Jewish army in the entire world. We are surrounded by enemies on all borders and fight for our existence each and everyday. As a Jew, each of us has an obligation to support and defend the most important piece of land on this earth. I proudly screamed at the top of my lungs "Ani nishbah, Ani nishbah, Ani nishbah." I have taken an oath to defend this country and help it however I can. If I don't do that, who will? Ask yourself what you've done recently to help Israel. You don't need to serve in the IDF to take an oath to defend the only Jewish homeland; I challenge you to donate time, energy, and money to Israel. If you don't, who will?"
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Nadav’s army and life experiences here with us in Israel. You can share their experiences vicariously while helping our young folks. Together we can make a difference.