(April 30, 2017 / JNS) For Israel’s Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron), which commemorates fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, the Jerusalem-based Lone Soldier Center hosted a unique English-language event Sunday focusing on the stories of fallen Israeli-American soldiers Michael Levin and Shlomo Rindenow.
Levin and Rindenow were among the group within the IDF known as lone soldiers—those serving in the military who do not have immediate family living in Israel. The Lone Soldier Center, founded in Michael Levin’s memory by a group of former lone soldiers in 2009, is the only organization entirely dedicated to “meeting all of the physical and social needs of lone soldiers,” according to its website.
The center has branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, where it provides lone soldiers with special counseling, help with finding housing, and meals on Shabbat and holidays.
Sunday’s Lone Soldier Center memorial service in Jerusalem was Israel’s only public Yom Hazikaron ceremony conducted entirely in English.
At the event, the center said it aimed to “strengthen the connection of English-speaking immigrants, tourists and students in Israel and abroad to Israel’s Memorial Day and the stories of Israel’s heroes.”
Elisa Levin, sister of Michael Levin, spoke at the ceremony about her brother’s love for Israel, which has caused many young non-Israeli Jews to follow in his footsteps and voluntarily serve in the IDF.
Levin immigrated to Israel from Philadelphia in 2002 and joined an elite IDF paratrooper brigade. In 2006, while visiting family on vacation in America, he cut his trip short and returned to Israel to serve with his unit after war broke out on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, following an ambush on an IDF patrol by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
Upon arriving in Israel, Levin was deployed with his unit to a Hezbollah stronghold in the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab, where soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were taken after being captured on the Israel-Lebanon border two weeks earlier. Levin died fighting with Hezbollah terrorists inside the village. He was 22.
“I believe Michael’s story helps people find a deeper connection to Israel,” Elisa Levin said. “Losing Michael is a constant reminder to me that our time here is limited, and to make the most of it. You should pursue you dreams no matter what obstacles get in the way.”
Also at Sunday’s event, Yocheved Rindenow, who lost her younger brother Shlomo in a military accident on Israel’s northern border last summer, shared the story of her brother’s journey from New Jersey to the IDF.
At 18, Shomo moved to Netzer Hazani from Passaic and volunteered for a year with a search-and-rescue organization before joining Israel’s military. He was 20 years old when he was killed, along with Staff Sgt. Hussam Tafesh, after a grenade held by Tafesh exploded near a Golan Heights army post.
Following his death last summer, thousands of Israelis gathered at Rindenow’s funeral to pay their final respects. Rindenow was one of five brothers, among nine siblings, who immigrated to Israel and served in the IDF.
“He was always in love with Israel,” said Yocheved Rindenow, the Jerusalem Post reported. “He didn’t know Hebrew because he didn’t grow up here, so he came here, he taught himself Hebrew, and joined the unit that he was really passionate about.”
Shlomo Rindenow was “100 percent committed to the army,” said his older brother Jeff Tower, adding, “He sacrificed for the land.”