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A Letter to My Son, a Lone Israeli Soldier

November 2, 2017 | by Valerie Greenfeld

One mother’s heartfelt letter to her son who is serving in the Israeli army.

Dear Sam,

I am so proud of you for all of the decisions that you have made and the service that you have done for your school, the ROTC, your synagogue and all of your volunteering. But your service in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) tops it all.

It takes a lot of strength to make the decision to move to Israel where you didn’t know the language or have any family or friends. But you did it and now you have both. You have surpassed my hopes and dreams and once you were drafted, hearing Hatikvah always brings tears to my eyes. Praying for the soldiers in Israel at shul has a completely new meaning, and when I speak with God, I have so much more to say.

I was so proud of you while you worked consistently to earn your black belt in Tang-Su-do Karate. We learned the first day that karate is used only to defend yourself from the enemy. Self-defense for a cause that you believe in is so much more meaningful and worthwhile. Since the day Israel was born, she has fought for the right to exist, and continues fighting still. Whether it be at the United Nations, against radical Islamists, the BDS movement, or anti-Semitic professors on your college campus, your desire to defend the Jewish people against all odds stands tall.

Me with my son

Since you were a young boy, you were always the peacemaker in the family. I know you don’t remember, but your birth brought us all together. You were always the one who saw the whole picture and tried to make things right. Even though many times, as the oldest boy, you had too much pressure on your shoulders, you have overcome tremendous obstacles and your strength and purpose has served you well.

Today as a peacemaker in the Jewish State, you and your new friends, the Lone Soldiers who are the spirit of the IDF, are voluntarily serving to protect Jews inside and outside Israel. You are showing the world what it means to stand for principles, justice and human rights. In many ways, you and your fellow IDF soldiers are protecting not only Israel, but the world, against terrorism. Living where Hamas and Hezbollah hit hard is the place where the Jewish nation stands together, fighting hatred and evil.

Seeing photos of you in your olive-green army uniform, boots and kippah at the Western Wall, I can’t help but feel tremendous emotion. You and your friends are the glue that binds the IDF—you are the volunteers that hold the highest values and morals for a just world. You, my Sam, and all the Michael Levin Lone Soldiers serving with you, are my heroes.

I am proud that you are so strong. I know that at times it isn’t easy—sometimes physically and emotionally draining, grueling and painful, and sometimes boring. Waking up in the middle of the night to run into the sea fully clothed, rolling in the sand and doing push-ups with chattering teeth in the dark is not an easy feat. Perhaps at times it doesn’t seem meaningful and you may wonder why you are there. But rest assured that is the small picture, just a moment in time. Know that you represent the big picture -- giving your time and effort, your body and soul to the most precious cause on this earth – the safety of the State of Israel. You will always have a bond with Jews that served before you and those who will follow your service. With love, respect and pride for you, I pray for your safety.

You are carrying the name of our family before you, Great-Great-Grandpa Sam Rifkin who escaped the pogroms in Russia to the safety of freedom and democracy. He never had the chance to visit Israel but he and Great-Great-Grandma Clara lived with dignity, dedicating their lives to Judaism and the Jewish people. As tailors, they both sewed up holes in army uniforms to help American soldiers during WWI and WWII. You have lived with the same integrity, spirit and purpose as your namesake. My dad’s U.S. Navy service meant so much to him and he would be so proud to watch you grow in your service. Both Grandpa Sam and Pa are with you in spirit along your journey. The IDF will build you up, shape you, and mold you into a soldier with the ideals and love of Israel that we are meant to feel, to believe and to know.

Thank you, Sam for your service, your bravery, your selflessness and your love. I couldn’t be more proud of who you have always been and who you have become. Know that wherever you go, your mom is always with you, loving and supporting you. In my eyes, you are a great success, and no one can ever take that away from you.

I love you.

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