Mourning American-Born Lone Soldiers on the Israeli Memorial Day

Today is Yom Ha-Zikaron, Israel’s memorial day for its fallen soldiers. In the evening, it will give way to Yom Ha-Atsma’ut, the nation’s independence day. To understand this powerful juxtaposition, it’s worth revisiting Atar Hadari’s 2015 essay on the subject.

In the current war, 711 soldiers have fallen, among whom are twenty “lone soldiers.” While the term conjures images of a solitary commando stealthily making his way to any enemy position, it in fact refers to soldiers who are alone not in the field but insofar as they lack the normal familial support networks—usually because they are immigrants from the diaspora. Hillel Kuttler looks at the three American-born lone soldiers who gave their lives in defense of the Jewish homeland since October 7. He begins with Omer Balva, who was born to Israeli parents living in the Washington, DC area:

Omer, a twenty-two-year-old staff sergeant in the IDF’s Golani battalion, was killed on October 20 near the border with Lebanon by a rocket that the Hizballah terrorist group launched. . . . Another casualty was Rose Lubin, a twenty-year-old Atlanta native and a sergeant in the Border Guard. She was on duty outside Jerusalem’s Old City when a Palestinian terrorist stabbed her to death on November 6.

Israelis can be hard to impress, but they’ll shower admiration upon lone soldiers, wondering why they voluntarily displaced themselves from safer lives abroad to undertake IDF service, often in combat units.

Yonatan Dean Chaim is the third lone soldier from the United States killed since October 7. A Rochester, New York, native, the twenty-five-year-old staff sergeant in the Engineering Corps fell in battle in Gaza on December 8. . . . Chaim really didn’t have to serve. That’s because he was raised as a Baptist, as Jonathan Dean, Jr., and as a young adult converted to Judaism, changed his name, and moved to Israel.

Chaim doubtless was influenced by the protectors in his family. Chaim’s father and [brother] are U.S. Marine Corps veterans and longtime police officers, another brother served in the U.S. Air Force, and a third brother works in the Secret Service.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Yom Ha-Zikaron

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7