So there I was, in my Tel Aviv rental apartment, working as a graphic designer for The Israel Economist and waiting for the IDF to call me up. I’d been working and waiting for several years, since making Aliyah on my 20th birthday in 1979. Now almost 25, I was afraid the IDF wouldn’t want me in my “old age.” I had dreamed of being an IDF soldier since I was eight, a dream I refused to let go of, especially after making Aliyah.
My dream took root in the summer of 1973, when my father took me on a two-week tour of Israel – a trip that rocked my world and changed my life! A young Israeli soldier boarded our bus at a security checkpoint with her matter-of-fact professionalism and beautiful blond hair pinned up under her army cap. I was smitten: I would be her!
Six years later, I finally made Aliyah, but to my surprise, I didn’t get drafted. So I studied Hebrew at a Kibbutz Ulpan and then landed what, as an artist schooled at The Cooper Union in NYC, I thought was my dream job: graphic designer for a Tel Aviv tourism magazine. The years flew by, and suddenly I was (gasp!) 25…with no call-up notice. So I sent my resume to three IDF generals… and I got drafted!
Now all I had to do was get through Basic Training, which wasn’t really required at my age, but why not! So there I was at 25, on the bus to Machaneh Shmonim (Base 80) for basic training, with a bunch of 18-year-old recruits seen off by their parents. I was the only Lone Soldier.
The only thing I did right during basic training was shoot. My Hebrew was awful, and I seemed to fail at almost everything I attempted. I remember being sick as a dog for much of basic training, and that I felt so sick during a march that a fellow soldier literally had to push me forward so I could get to the end.
As a Lone Soldier with no family in Israel, none of my relatives were there to attend the “swearing-in” ceremony, so I have no photos of it. Still, I remember it like yesterday: I placed my gun by the Bible and took the oath to serve my country, with tears streaming down my face. Alone, but dedicated to serving my people and my homeland.
Luckily, the base officers were very kind to me and allowed me to go home on the weekends. All alone in Israel, I came back to an empty apartment. I think the officers let me go home to keep my apartment from getting broken into.
As a Lone Soldier, my army salary was triple the amount of a regular soldier, but it was still only $150 a month- and the mortgage on my apartment was $150 a month. Fortunately, LIBI sent me gifts on the holidays, which made a huge difference. I even kept the LIBI sleeping bag that I was given that year! Thanks to LIBI, the two years of my service were, in many ways, the best years of my life. Although I have accomplished many things throughout my life, my IDF service is one of the only things I am truly proud of.
After my service in the IDF, I left Israel to pursue a career and ended up living in New York. While working for the 9/11 disaster response operation in NYC following the terrorist attacks, I met the man who would become my husband: US Army Ret. Dan Clark. Soon after, Dan was deployed to South West Virginia, where we bought a historic home in McDowell County that we transformed into The Elkhorn Inn & Theatre.
To the best of my knowledge, I am the only Jew in McDowell County, not to mention an Israeli and IDF Veteran. Despite the difficulties, that didn’t stop me from continuing to practice Jewish customs and even grow etrogs in our garden! At the moment, there is one etrog left that needs to find a good home for Sukkot! Four of the etrogs were bought by a man who, like me, was a Lone Soldier in the IDF. Very kindly, he sent enough money to enable us to make a donation to LIBI!
This year, like all years, I want to thank LIBI from the bottom of my heart for being there for me way back in ‘84! The LIBI family supported me through my service and gave me the resources I needed to serve and protect the People and the Land of Israel.
The never-ending support LIBI provides our young heroes creates a community of a lifetime. Building them a home away from home during their service and caring for soldiers after their discharge from the IDF are only a fewof the things that LIBI does for its soldiers. The amazing work they did for me, way back in ‘84, is something I cherish and appreciate to this day.