Meet Cleveland's Lone Soldiers

Tags: Israel, Federation

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Reprinted from our Israel @ 65 Magazine, May 2013

Israel Defense Forces Mission

To defend the existence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of the state of Israel. To protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten the daily life.

Ask them why they serve, and this what they tell you – these Clevelanders who are past, current and future members of the Israel Defense Forces. They are some of the estimated 800-1,000 young Jews from all over the world who each year make the decision to give two or more years of their lives to risk injury and death in protecting a tiny nation far from home. Many more serve after making Aliyah following high school. Their reasons for choosing this path vary, but they share many values: a deep love for Israel; a desire to maintain and strengthen the bond between Cleveland, the United States and Israel; and the hope and dream that one day, Jews everywhere will enjoy prosperity and above all, peace.

Etan Trangle

I grew up attending Gross Schechter Day School. My education there instilled in me Jewish and Zionist values which played a very big role in my decision to make Aliyah and join the IDF. Every time I visited Israel growing up, I felt a strong bond to the country. Having an Israeli mother gave me a chance to strengthen my connection to Israel.

Joining the IDF was something I would think about every time I visited Israel. One of the major factors for making Aliyah was joining the IDF and getting that ultimate Israeli experience that most Israelis, including my mother, go through. My time in the Israeli Air Force was a major experience that helped me feel like a part of Israeli society.

I never saw it as risking my life for Israel, as much as contributing my skills and talents as best I can to ensure the survival of the Jewish state. I saw first-hand how strong the bond is between the United States and Israel. The IDF would not be where it is today without the staunch support and military aid from the U.S., and the support would not be so steadfast with the strong backing from Cleveland as well as the rest of America.

Andy Bell

For my Bar Mitzvah in 2006, my parents offered me either a party or a trip to Israel. I chose Israel. This was really the start of my love and pride for Israel. I graduated from Beachwood High School and made Aliyah on June 12, 2012.

Choosing to move to a country where I knew almost no one and leaving everything and everyone I knew and loved was frightening. The only reason I never thought of backing out was knowing the regrets I’d would face the rest of my life if I didn’t go through with it.

I will enlist in the IDF this summer or fall. I chose to serve in the IDF about two years before I moved to Israel. The decision was made for many reasons. It was mostly the romantic ones at first (serving the Jewish people and our homeland) but it quickly became a part of who I am. For really the first time in my life, I feel a sense of purpose.

I would like Cleveland, and really all of the world, to see what Israel is up against. Israel is a beautiful one-of-a-kind country, full of beautiful, one-of-a-kind people. With all of the threats to Israel in the region, support from the United States is crucial for the safety of the country.

Roni Cohen

I grew up in Beachwood and graduated from Beachwood High School. I decided to join the IDF because I felt a connection to the State of Israel. I not only knew I wanted to serve in the IDF from a young age, but I was a Zionist who wanted to pursue the Zionistic dream.

Every summer that I can remember was spent in Israel. I remember visiting my oldest sister Liat on her army base. I knew then that Israel was a part of who I am.

Anti-semitism is on the rise all over the world, and Israel is the only country that Jews can fall back on. It is important for Jews to realize that without Israel there is no safe place for us and no other place for us to call home. No matter where we are in the world, it is in Israel that we have our roots as a uniting factor.

Matthew Cohen

I went on a Birthright trip to Israel in 2006 and it was very meaningful. It greatly strengthened my Jewish identity and after another trip to Israel, a lot of research, a lot of pondering and thinking about making Aliyah, I made the decision to move to Israel and join the IDF.

I always say when you first tell your parents in Cleveland that you want to go to Israel and be a soldier, it’s kind of like telling them when you’re five years old that you want to be an astronaut. But once this became real and it was clear there was no going back, that this was what I wanted to do, they were very supportive.

I served for two years, from May 2009 to May 2011, as a combat paratrooper. I wanted to do something interesting in the IDF, that would challenge me, and I wanted to be with the very best soldiers.

Supporting Israel in any way we can is critical to our survival. From a pure numbers standpoint, there are so few Jews in the world really. I don’t think we could exist without Israel, without having a place that we can call home. This is where we came from and this is a place we can always go back to. It gives us our identity, one we did not have 70 years ago.

Gedalya Frankel

Gedalya graduated from Fuchs Mizrachi in 2011 and is currently serving in an elite IDF unit as a paratrooper and combat medic. He is on patrol for 16 hours a day and was not available for an interview, so his parents Larry and Michelle Frankel shared some recent emails.

I am defending Israel and all the Jews around the world. Be proud! When you talk to people, brag to them. Not to make me a hero (I’m scared out of my wits) but to make yourselves heroes. Tell your friends your son is taking part in this war, not with tears in your eyes but a smile on your face.

I came here willing to die for this country. I came here with a dream to make a difference. What I will never forget are the 6 million brothers and sisters who died for our people, the countless soldiers who died for this country. I will look back and have something to be proud of, that I took part in the Jewish army defending our state, defending Jewish freedom. I will look back on this and forget the hardships and I will smile with honor. This is my dream. It’s all of our dreams.

Daniel Nisman

I made Aliyah just two weeks after graduation from Beachwood High School in 2004. A lot of my choice to move here has to do with my upbringing. My grandmother is a survivor of Auschwitz, and my grandfather helped form a kibbutz in Israel. We spent many summers there and I always felt a connection. I really always had a gut feeling that as a Jew there was no other place that I could really feel at home.

I served as a paratrooper in an elite combat unit. My younger brother Yoni is currently serving in a unit similar to the one I was in; he’s a good team member and a good soldier. I’m nervous for him, and so proud of him, I think of him every day.

Support of Israel from Cleveland, and from the United States, is critical. We are the insurance plan; we are the only guarantee. We are making sacrifices, so that Israel will always be here for every Jew, and people should be aware of us, know what’s going on here and know Israel will be here for them.

Support of Israel from Cleveland, and from the United States, is critical. We are the insurance plan; we are the only guarantee. We are making sacrifices, so that Israel will always be here for every Jew, and people should be aware of us, know what’s going on here and know Israel will be here for them.

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