Lone Soldier’s Legacy Persists 15 Years After Death


Michael Levin, a Philadelphia native, wanted to join the Israel Defense Forces since the age of nine. He even broke into an Israeli army base through a bathroom window to enlist.

The grandson of two Holocaust survivors on his mother’s side, Levin was imbued with the value of protecting a Jewish homeland since childhood. In 2002, Levin made aliyah, enlisting in the IDF as a lone soldier, joining the Israeli military with no family in Israel or local support systems.

Michael Levin died in combat 15 years ago in 2006, but his parents, Mark and Harriet Levin, ensured his legacy would last into futurity. 

On July 16, the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin, along with Knesset member Michael Biton of the Defense Ministry, hosted its inaugural conference in Jerusalem’s Knesset in honor of Michael Levin’s 15-year yahrzeit.

Michal Berman (left), Harriet Levin, Michael Biton and Mark Levin at the Knesset’s inaugural conference advocating for lone soldiers | Courtesy of The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin

The Lone Soldier Center, which provides counseling, meals, financial assistance and emergency support for 2,000 lone soldiers annually in Israel, co-organized the event with Biton to raise awareness of lone soldiers. Michael Levin’s parents, Knesset members and lone soldiers of past and present attended the conference.

“We were proud to see over 15 Knesset members from different parties come and demonstrate their respect for lone soldiers, their appreciation for the work that we do, and to honor Michael’s legacy with us, as we have been doing for the past 15 years since his fall,” said Michal Berman, CEO of the Lone Soldier Center.

Along with raising awareness of lone soldiers in Michael Levin’s name, Mark and Harriet Levin are hoping Knesset members will start a committee to lobby for a line in the Knesset’s budget for assistance to lone soldiers.

Mark and Harriet Levin have been espousing support for lone soldiers for several years, but started The Michael Levin Lone Soldier Foundation five years ago to be able to provide greater financial assistance for lone soldier organizations in Israel.

They currently help support a handful of Israeli organizations supporting lone soldiers, such as the Lone Soldier Center, to whom they provide 80% of the organization’s funding.

Lizzie Noach, co-director of The Michael Levin Base, another lone soldier assistance organization supported by Mark and Harriet Levin’s foundation, said the funds were instrumental in supporting The Base last year during the pandemic, as the organization, which was deemed “essential,” worked to create weekly to-go Shabbat dinners for lone soldiers.

Though Michael Levin’s parents have supported lone soldiers since their son’s death, advocating for lone soldiers was Michael Levin’s dream since he enlisted in the IDF.

During Michael Levin’s service in the IDF, he slept on park benches for a couple nights, not having anywhere else to stay.

According to Mark Levin, no lone soldier centers or organizations existed when his son was a soldier.

Michael Levin’s grave | Courtesy of Mark and Harriet Levin

Four years after Michael Levin’s death, Adam Klazmer, the incoming NextGen board chair at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, also joined the IDF as a lone soldier. Klazmer went to the same summer camp as Michael Levin — Camp Ramah in the Poconos. He didn’t know Michael Levin but knew of him; everyone did, he said.

“Michael’s story was an ever-present reminder that what I was doing wasn’t a game, that I was fighting for something that I very much believed in,” Klazmer said.

Klazmer was part of NextGen, the Jewish Federation’s affinity group for young professionals, when it helped to create The Levin Society, a new donor level at the Jewish Federation for those giving $2,500 annually.

“We wanted to name [the society] after a young, Jewish, local person who had name recognition and represented everything we want in a leader for the Jewish community,” said Matt Shipon, NextGen’s outgoing board chair who head-started The Levin Society’s creation and naming.

According to Klazmer, there were no other name candidates; it could only be Michael Levin.

In Israel and Philadelphia, Michael Levin’s legacy is interwoven in the missions of several organizations and individuals, even a decade and a half after his passing.

“His legacy is that all that has been established in the past 15 years, is all because of him, because of his vision, because of his dream,” Mark Levin said.

srogelberg@jewishexponent.com: 215-832-0741


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