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The Michael Levin Base Offers Lone Soldiers Physical and Emotional Support

Michael Levin was an American-Israeli lone soldier in the Paratroopers Brigade of the IDF who was killed in action in the Second Lebanon War, on Aug. 1, 2006, in Lebanon. A symbolic boot is a logo for The Michael Levin Base (The Base), a nonprofit organization in Jerusalem named in memory of 22-year-old Levin who wanted to create a base with an extended community for lone soldiers.

Centrally located near shuk Machaneh Yehuda in the center of Jerusalem, The Base “serves 2,300 young men and women as lone soldiers and sheirut leumi,” said Richard Corman, chairman of the board, when hespoke at the home of Betty and Zvi Lando in West Orange last Sunday. Lando co-chaired the packed event with Debbie Buechler, also of West Orange.

Corman, with a distinguished career in Jewish nonprofits, stated, “Today we’re going to talk about heroes.” Since the War of Independence, he recognized, there have been lone soldiers in Israel. With 7,000 lone soldiers in the IDF today, sharing an amazing feeling toward the state of Israel, Corman stressed they no longer only come from around the world but many are Israelis, adding, “They all need a support system when they leave their homes, colleges and communities.”

Richard Corman, chairman of the board for
The Michael Levin Base, stressed the importance of the base.

Levin’s maternal grandparents were survivors of Auschwitz and Corman stated, at “128 pounds,” Levin wanted to be part of a strong Jewish army to ensure “Never Again.” At his first attempt he was not accepted, but he came back to the induction officer through a back window and was drafted, serving as a model soldier. After he was killed, Harriet and Mark Levin wanted to fulfill their son’s wishes for a community for lone soldiers. They knew Corman and asked him to start the base, requesting only that their son’s name be included, and that Bonnie Rosenbaum and Lizzie Noach be involved.

Along with Corman, his “two invaluable women co-directors” put together $100,000 to get the base operational in four months with a kick-off at a February 2020 Purim bash. The pandemic hit and no one was traveling to Israel for two years, so the Mark and Harriet Levin Foundation stepped up and supported them. Corman noted that the 16 board members are volunteers and 100% of donations go to the base. Following his presentation, a short video highlighting the activities of the base was presented before Corman introduced Gavriel, a lone soldier who served in an IDF counter-terrorism unit as a shield bearer. Having also been in Gaza as a part of the special forces recon unit, Gavriel asked to be identified by a single name, also requesting no photographs. At age 11, Gavriel heard someone speak about her two sons who were killed in the IDF. He felt they died for him and taking the information to heart, he decided at 16 that he wanted to make aliyah and join the IDF. His father said, “I’m so proud of you,” as he drove 19-year-old Gavriel to the airport.

Natalie James of West Orange, a frequent volunteer in Israel, shared that Michael Levin died in her cousin’s arms.

Once in Israel, Gavriel insisted he wanted to try out for one of the top military units. His goal was to draft into a unit that 7,000 people per year try out for. He kept a list of the challenges set before him and the remarks of people, such as, “You are not strong enough, you are not fast enough, you don’t know Hebrew.” He worked hard at each challenge and passed his first tryout where roughly 8% got to the next level. Ranking in the top 40 of 7,000, his dream was crushed when he tore two ligaments in his ankle. He said, “If you miss a single day, you’re out.”

After four months in recovery, he redrafted, serving for over two years as a combat soldier and commander in counter-terrorism, where “100% of the mission was against armed terrorists.” Having been released from the army in May, on Oct. 7 Gavriel forced his way back into the military and landed in a unit in Gaza where he helped whisk 106 injured soldiers to helicopters, saving their lives.

On Sunday morning many gathered to hear about The Michael Levin Base in Jerusalem and the story of a lone soldier.

He explained being lone soldiers means they are alone in Israel where they don’t know anyone and their parents are not there to guide them. A community center offering understanding and care from others who have been lone soldiers is “very, very important.” Stating that “the army is … tough to navigate,” Gavriel, who is shomer Shabbat, has carried a phone 24/7 since Oct. 7, helping others at the base, “not by babying them but by helping and offering support.” He is currently starting a martial arts program.

On Oct. 7, The Michael Levin Lone Soldier Foundation was among the first to send supplies to Israel. Forty-one pallets of merchandise took a full El Al plane and yeshiva students were enlisted to carry 800 boxes, filling the base, within a week, from ceiling to floor with socks, underwear and sleeping bags. The supplies, including 70 hot showers, were not only for lone soldiers but for all soldiers. They now partner with many organizations and as the “go-to” organization, with just a phone call, 2,300 are served at the base. At first, they could only serve Shabbat meals on Friday nights. While they cannot afford caterers, with 22 cooking brigades they now also serve weekly Shabbat lunches.

Andra and Craig Goldman of West Orange are “big fans” of the base. Their elder son Michael made aliyah and as a full citizen of Israel, he was drafted in 2013. The married reservist and father of three living in Jerusalem was called up on Oct. 7 and served in the reserves at the Lebanon border for four months. He expects to be called back in May. In 2021, the Goldman’s younger son Seth joined the Machal program as a U.S. citizen. He finished his volunteer position in August with plans to make aliyah on May 8. As parents, the Goldmans, who also have a daughter living in Teaneck with her family, stated that “The base is worthwhile if it does nothing else but help lone soldiers navigate the Israeli army and government.”

Attendees sat attentively listening to Richard Corman and Gavriel.

Natalie James of West Orange shared that Michael Levin died in her cousin’s arms. Her cousin, a vascular surgeon, was a medic in the army when Levin was killed.

The Landos’ four children, graduates of Kushner in Livingston, all spent time in Israel. The eldest, Alex, served in the IDF from 2016-2018, and a younger daughter Emma, after serving in the Israeli volunteer service, seeks to volunteer in the Israeli army. Buechler’s son Aaron made aliyah and served as a lone soldier soon after graduating from Kushner in 2012. Married and the father of two, he and his family now live in the Sha’alvim community of Nof Ayalon.


Sharon Mark Cohen, MPA, believes that everyone deserves a legacy. Follow her at sharonmarkcohen.com.

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