L.A. youth become Israel’s brave lone soldiers


“I want to give back, not just sit back,” Samuel “Shimmy” Kandel said. The 19-year-old Angeleno was explaining in a phone interview why he decided to interrupt his studies at Santa Monica College to serve as an American volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Danny Rubin and Ari Platt, both 24, became friends at Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles (YULA). Both went on to serve with the IDF’s elite Givati Brigade between 2009 and 2011, after which Platt extended his term for a year to attend officers’ school. Platt is now a pre-med student at Columbia University.

Each year, some 5,000 young men and women like these three come to Israel from about 120 countries — most of them from the United States — to serve in Israel’s armed forces, leaving behind their families and friends for one to two years, sometimes more.

In Israel, these enlistees are known by the somewhat odd designation of “Lone Soldiers,” to indicate, according to the IDF Web site
ldplatt@gmail.com.