Thursday, August 11 marked 10 years since Michael Levin z”l, a lone soldier who made aliyah from Philadelphia, was killed fighting in the Second Lebanon War. Michael is remembered by the many American and Israelis he touched, for being small in size, at just over five feet tall, but a giant in his actions, smile and the deeds that defined him. According to Michael’s mother, Harriet, “Michael was deeply impacted by his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor who lost his entire family. Michael always viewed the protection of the Jewish people as a driving force in his life. Once he first set foot in Israel on a high school trip, and was surrounded by Jewish life, Jewish culture and Israelis speaking Hebrew, part of me knew that my baby would never come back home, that Israel would be his place.”
Michael’s tragic passing set into motion a community-wide, grass-roots effort, on the part of his fellow soldiers and especially other lone soldiers who served or lived with Michael in Jerusalem, to establish the Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin.
The Lone Soldier Center has grown each year, powered by volunteers and discharged lone soldiers, to become a country-wide network of Centers and homes for lone soldiers in cities across Israel, home away from home for thousands of lone soldiers.
On Michael’s yahrzeit, Michael’s family and hundreds of friends gathered to pay their respects at his grave on Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery. From there, the group came to the official opening of the Lone Soldier Center’s new Jerusalem home—a 3,200-square-foot moadon in downtown Jerusalem, where hundreds of lone soldiers can pass through on any given day.
The Center’s Director, Josh Flaster, a former lone soldier himself added, “We are so excited to be moving into our new home. This larger facility will allow the Center to host hundreds of lone soldiers for Shabbat meals, to do their laundry and get help with any issues they are facing, inside or outside of the IDF. The moadon serves as the center of the community and support system for the more than 6,500 lone soldiers who risk their lives to protect the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”
The Lone Soldier Center fulfills Michael’s ideals and vision, supporting thousands of lone soldiers from 52 countries around the world who follow in Michael’s footsteps. According to Michael’s former roommate, Ari, a lone soldier himself from New York, “I remember Michael most for the way he would always care first and foremost for his friends and roommates, for other lone soldiers. While nothing can ever take away the pain of losing Mikey, the legacy he left behind, of lone soldiers supporting the next generation of lone soldiers, is a tremendous gift and comfort.”
“You can’t fulfill your dreams unless you dare to risk it all.” – Michael Levin