New book sheds light on Israels defenders from around the world

Herb Keinon, a Denver native who made aliyah in 1981 and has since written for the Jerusalem Post, spent two years conducting research for his new book “Lone Soldiers: Israel’s Defenders from Around the World,” which profiles 14 lone soldiers from around the world.

Keinon spoke Nov. 5 at Congregation Emek Beracha in Palo Alto as part of a two-week North American speaking tour.

He spoke to j. reporter Stacey Palevsky by phone from his hotel in Phoenix.

Q. Did you serve in the army?

A. Yes, I did serve in the IDF, but in a different framework. I came to Israel when I was 26 and married. So I did four months of training and became a combat medic. Then I did 15 years in the reserves.

Q. How did working on this book affect how you think about life in Israel?

A. It gives you a degree of hope and pride in the country and resilience of the country. What you read about a lot are the kids who don’t go into the army, who say they can’t serve in the territories — that grabs a lot of headlines. Then you see stories like this. I think it’s an important counterbalance.

Q. Did any of the soldiers you profiled consider serving in their home country’s military?

A. One American kid gave it a thought, but figured he might as well serve in a Jewish army. A kid from Belgium also considered serving in the Belgian army for a minute, but if he was going to do it, he thought he might as well do it for Israel. It’s interesting because he was living in Belgium but still felt more of a connection to Israel. It comes down to your service and what you can contribute, which is more in Israel than perhaps other armies. Israel is a small army, and you see your impact, you feel your impact.

Q. After people finish reading your book, what do you want them to think about in the days following?

A. Just that the phenomena exists. I’m not sure it’s something that’s widely recognized. You have kids from all over world who get up, who leave mostly a very comfortable environment, who don’t go on the regular track of college and instead go into a very difficult situation … That indicates the degree to which Zionism still has a pull for a lot of people.

Q. Will this book be published in Hebrew?

A. Yes, the idea or hope is that the army will translate it and publish it and distribute it to lone soldiers.

Q. What do you think Israelis will think about the stories in this book?

A. For Israelis, I think it’s also important to see this type of phenomena as well. They’re bombarded by stories of people who don’t want to go to into the army and how diaspora Jewry is not interested anymore. This shows another side … I found these stories inspirational and uplifting. I would hope Israelis think the same, and see that we’ve got something going on here.

“Lone Soldiers: Israel’s Defenders From Around the World” by Herb Keinon (160 pages, Devora Publishing, $27.95)

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.