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Lone soldier Lila Zucker. Photo: Courtesy.
Lone soldier Lila Zucker. Photo: Courtesy.
featureIsrael at War

‘I feel at home in Israel, something was missing in US’

Lila Zucker enlisted in the IDF as a lone soldier after making aliyah from Arizona. She was the only female fighter in her unit to enter the Gaza Strip.

Twenty-year-old Lila Zucker, a fighter in the IDF Home Front Command’s search and rescue unit, has done a lot in the past five months since the outbreak of the war.

She searched buildings hit by missiles, was at Kibbutz Be’eri, fought in Gaza—the only female soldier from her team to enter the Strip—and now she is in the north of Israel and visits sites hit by enemy missiles.

It is clear to her that after military service, she will stay in Israel. Her older brother also served as a lone soldier (one without close family in Israel who can help them) and when the war broke out, he was called up for reserve duty.

Zucker was born in Colorado and her family moved to Israel when she was a child. They lived in Jerusalem but after 10 years they returned to the U.S., to Arizona. When she was 18, she decided to return to Israel. 

For a year, she studied in a religious seminary in Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv, in northern Israel’s Beit She’an Valley, and there she began her enlistment process into the search and rescue unit of the Home Front Command.

During her training, “Operation Shield and Arrow” began, and the fighters were tasked with assisting in real attacks. For example, they were called to the scene of a missile strike in Rehovot, in which one woman was killed and 13 others were wounded.

“We needed to get a couple from the building. It was the first time I was in a real incident, and it was very meaningful. I learned a lot from it,” Zucker recounted.

On Oct. 7, she was at home in Jerusalem, in a special lone soldier’s apartment.

“I woke up to a missile [warning] siren and saw my phone exploding with messages. Within 20 minutes, my commander came and picked me up to take me to the base. We arrived in the central region in vehicles with our equipment and maneuvered between the rockets. After about a week and a half, we received a mission to go and scan houses in Kibbutz Be’eri.”

The horrific scenes in Be’eri left their mark on Zucker, and she prefers not to talk too much about what she saw. When the IDF ground operation began in Gaza, the team served as a reserve force for a battalion in the Strip.

“I was in Khan Yunis, and we were on standby to extract forces if there would be a [building] collapse on soldiers from special units. In addition, we scanned routes and firing holes in Gaza.”

As mentioned above, not the entire team entered Gaza. Zucker was the only woman on her team to do so. 

She is certain she will stay in Israel after she completes her service and hopes her parents will follow suit and move back to Israel as well. 

“In the U.S., life was very easy,” she explained. “I had friends and family, but something was missing. In Israel, I feel at home. I can’t see myself living abroad, especially during war. I had no doubts about being a fighter, I told myself that if I enlisted, then all the way.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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