Lt. Col. (res.) Tzvika Levy takes care of thousands of lone soldiers, doing whatever he can to alleviate the loneliness of serving in the military without one’s family
During Sukkot, thousands of lone soldiers- those serving without any immediate family in the country- make trips to their adoptive families in kibbutzim across the country. Lt. Col. (res.) Zvika Levi, the “father of lone soldiers,” is responsible for coordinating and mediating between these soldiers and their adoptive families.
At the height of preparations for the holiday, Tzvika Levi decided to start his day with a visit to the northern base of Mikve Alon, where new immigrants begin their army service. Tzvika sees a mission in these visits. For him, the greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that every single soldier will have a sukkah in which they can have a holiday meal. Tzvika himself celebrated the holiday in his own sukkah hosting five lone soldiers, just a few of the many that his family has embraced over the years.
Tzvika, who served in the paratroopers, is no longer in active service. However, to this day he continues to have daily contact with soldiers. Every new immigrant in Mikve Alon knows his name, and almost all will remain in contact with him throughout their service. During each new round of enlistment, Tzvika makes sure to visit the soldiers in order to answer their questions and allay their fears. His phone never stops ringing, whether it is concerned parents in Australia who have yet to hear from their son, or the soldiers themselves seeking help adjusting.
Tzika’s inspiration comes from a very personal place. 18 years ago, Tzvika suffered a tragic loss when his daughter died. Lt. Gen. (res.) Rafael Eitan was there to provide support. He told him, “It will be good for you if you take on a small project, something helping soldiers. It will help you deal with the loss,” and that is exactly what he did.
“They started bringing me soldiers, I would scramble some eggs and have them sleep over in sleeping bags,” said Tzivka. Yet over time, when Tzvika could no longer accommodate all of the soldiers coming his home, he began contacting families on kibbutzim all over Israel in order to further the project given to him by Eitan.
Tzvika’s choice to accommodate lone soldiers on kibbutzim stems from his personal ideology. He believes the big city is the wrong place for the lone soldiers, and he makes sure to emphasize that in every encounter with them. “A soldier enlists and decides to rent an apartment in Tel Aviv, coming home to an apartment on the 3rd floor, where he his neighbors across the hall don’t even know who he is. But when I find a family that cares for a soldier on a kibbutz, I know the soldier comes home on the weekends to a hot meal, and a freshly made bed. He comes home to a mother who worries about him, and looks him in the eye to ask him how he is. You can’t find that on Dizengoff,” he says.
Most immigrants probably remember their first conversation with Tzivka right after they enlisted. “No matter where you came from before, here everyone is Israeli,” he tells them every time. Perhaps this is the reason for the project’s remarkable success. When Tzvika’s project began there were some 90 soldiers living on kibbutzim, today there are almost one thousand. Most of them remain in the country after their service, some even joining forces with Tzika to help the absorption of more soldiers like them.