Jerusalem, Israel - Nov. 19, 2020 - The COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to spread around the world as the Michael Levin Base for lone soldiers and b'not sheirut opened to serve men and women without families in Israel who volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces and for Volunteer Service. The planned grand opening was not the one envisioned by the staff and supporters of The Base. For Purim, there were six megillah readings and seudah. However, in Israel for Purim, the coronavirus kept people away from large celebrations and crowded spaces.
The COVID-19 lockdowns and slow openings have been difficult for everyone, however, for lone soldiers and b'not sheirut the time has been especially trying.
A Bat Sherut from London explained to her mother that "they are a really supportive space, centrally located, where lone soldiers or b'not sheirut can pop in for a chat or some food, usually Thursday nights."
Further, the grateful mother told BJL, "Especially in these covid times, it felt really reassuring that there is an organisation looking out for them and trying to make things a little bit better. Ayala had to go into Bidud (quarantine) a couple of weeks ago when she was exposed to covid at her workplace. With nowhere else to go, she knew she probably needed to check into a covid hotel. The people at the Base have contacts at sheirut leumi and the army so when Ayala wasn't getting anywhere through the usual channels (calling her rakezet and trying to arrange things herself), the Base stepped in for the final push and helped sort it all out. She's back in her flat now and happy to be at work again."
One of the annual events lone soldiers have looked forward to in the past is a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu with all the trimings. Lone soldiers from around the world enjoyed the food and fun, not only the young Americans who were missing the holiday with their families back home.
This year the plans for Thanksgiving Dinner could only be made last minute. Over the summer and for chagim when gathering for meals was prohibited, The Base provided Shabbat-in-a-Box for lone soldiers and b'not sheirut who came to pick it up from the offices near the Machane Yehudah Market in Yerushalayim. With the loosening of corona restrictions, The Base is planning to use a large outdoor space to host small groups for Thanksgiving dinner in timed shifts.
Besides a kitchen where those who drop by may prepare food and where packaged Shabbat meals are prepared by the staff, the Base has washing machines and dryers for lone soldiers who need to clean their own uniforms. There is a canteen for purchasing needed items at a highly discounted price. Newly installed desks under the library wall allow for convenient work stations. The main "hanging out" space has a large mural painted by Solomon Souza, the artist who painted the famous murals in the Machane Yehudah Market.
Along one corridor is the art work of former lone soldier Alex Singer z"l. Across the narrow passageway are photos of other fallen lone soldiers. At the end of the hall is the larger photo of Michael Levin z"l and a prayer for the safety of soldiers.
Since opening The Michael Levin Base has been shifting and adapting to safely accommodate and help lone soldiers and b'not sheirut.
Wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving and praying for the health and safety of all.