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A Lone Israeli Soldier Finds a Family

July 16, 2017 | by Brocha Miller

Through a series of coincidences, Ari Abramowitz became a beloved member of the Novick family.

Ari Abramowitz enlisted in the IDF with the sounds of rocket fire echoing in his ears. A native of Monsey, NY, Ari was attending a Chabad yeshiva in Israel when he heard about the rocket attacks in Sderot. He went to the Negev for Shabbos to see for himself.

Ari was horrified by the sight of his fellow Jews running for cover as rockets exploded around them. Fired up with passion, Ari decided to enlist in the IDF. He was committed to his new mission and threw himself into basic training. Pushing himself to the limits of physical endurance, and struggling to pick up the new language and culture were all challenges he tackled head on.

The one challenge which Ari did not anticipate was loneliness. On the frequent weekend during army training, Ari had nowhere to call home. He had no close family or friends in Israel. He rented a single bedroom in a yeshiva where he stored his belongings and snatched solitary Shabbos meals. In the grand scheme of things, when Ari considered what he was doing in service of his country and to protect his people, it was worth it. But it was a difficult struggle to maintain his enthusiasm without any support.

Ari Abramowitz top right in his reserve unit today

A few months into his training, Ari’s unit was taken on a tour of the Madrasa in northern Israel. This water hike is a beautiful journey which leads through the streams of the Kineret. On the way, Ari caught sight of a group of families in bright red T shirts, speaking English.

Ari splashed through the water towards them, calling out, “Are you American? So am I!”

The Novick family and their friends were a group of Anglos who had made Aliyah a few years ago and were living in Bet Shemesh. Ari introduced himself, chatting easily, thrilled to find someone who spoke his native language.

When the Novicks discovered that Ari was all alone, they invited him to their house. “You’ll be our chayal boded,” they said. They were happy to adopt a lone soldier, someone serving in the IDF who has no family in Israel.

The Grand Lone Soldier Menorah Lighting at Mamila Mall

The Novicks tried to give Ari their phone number, but since they were standing in the water, no one had a phone or even a pen or pencil to take down the number. Ari went back to his unit, “I need to remember this phone number,” he said. “You guys make up a song to it.” Ari’s fellow soldiers were bemused that he had connected with a perfect stranger, but they obliged and went wading down the water to the tune of Chamesh, shesh, shesh. Five, Six, Six.

The following day, the Novicks and their friends decided to continue their vacation in Tzefat. They were wandering the streets of the Artist Quarter when they heard the sound of soldiers’ boots marching. Then a song came ringing down the street, a lively chorus of “Chamesh shesh shesh.” “Five, Six, Six.” Mrs. Novick turned to her husband, “They’re singing our phone number!”

Delighted, the group of soldiers rushed up to the gang of red-shirted Anglos. The Novicks threw their arms around Ari like a long lost brother. “We found him! We found our chayel boded, our lone soldier!”

Ari Abramowitz left and Mordy Botnick second from right at a graduation ceremony

They exchanged numbers, this time with phones in hand, and the very next week, the Novicks called Ari, “Do you want to come for Shabbos?”

It was the start of a beautiful friendship. Every single week, the Novicks reached out to Ari. “Do you want to come for Shabbos? Will you join us for the holiday? We’re going on a trip, would you like to come?”

Ari became a fixture in the Novick’s life. He spent Shabbos and holidays with his new family, he even did his laundry in his new “home.” When the Novick’s grandparents came to visit Israel, they were introduced to Ari, “Call us Opa and Grandma.” Ari’s own grandparents had passed away, he was so happy to have an extended family once again. A few years later, at Ari’s wedding in the US, the Novick grandfather stood under the chuppah with him, serving as a witness to the ceremony.

By taking him into their family, the Novicks became a crucial support for Ari throughout his stint in the IDF. More than their initial kindness, they also set into motion a valuable resource.

Ari saw how important it is for lone soldiers in the IDF to have emotional support. He understood the vital role of family and community for a chayel boded. A few years later, Ari married and made Aliyah and began to work with his friend Mordy Botnick, a former lone soldier himself. Mordy had founded Chayel el Chayel, an organization which provides support for lone soldiers.

Mordy Botnick at a Beret Ceremony

They have opened their home to provide emotional support, spiritual nourishment, delicious meals and the warmth of family to lone soldiers. 

Today, Chayel el Chayel serves close to one hundred soldiers every Shabbos meal, along with hosting a regular minyan and weekly Torah classes. All due to the hard work and heavenly assistance of the Botnicks, the Abramowitzs, and the connection that was ignited through a singing phone number.

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