Though Jewish, Jake Fichman from Kansas City concedes that he hadn’t for most of his life been deeply immersed in his faith or the politics of the Middle East. “I’m not this army guy. It’s not how I was raised. For heaven’s sake, I’m vegan,” Fichman said.
Yet months after he returned from his first trip to Israel for a vacation in 2013, he volunteered for the Israeli army.
Fichman is now a corporal and combat medic, one of a group known as the “lone soldiers” inside the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who number some 5,000 – young men and women whose parents do not live in Israel.
Some 450 enlist each year from the U.S. and about 1,100 are currently on active duty.
Katja Edelman from Kansas City served from 2009 to 2012, becoming a first sergeant in a combat unit that deployed bomb-sniffing dogs.
Herb Keinon, diplomatic reporter for the Jerusalem Post, said, “These are kids who, again, come from all over the world.
They’ve given up their comfortable lives to come here to fight in the army. That says something to the Israeli society. It sends an important message that you are not alone.”
Many lone soldiers “are in the top units. They’re in the combat units.”
Two lone soldiers from the U.S., Sean Carmeli, 21, and Max Steinberg, 24, were killed in the 2014 Gaza war. Read more here.