Helping the Stranger

In his unique photographic presentation, emergency room physician Brant Slomovic presents the life and experiences of the Lone Soldiers who come to Israel to help defend it. His first monograph entitled “The Cracks in Everything,” his work depicts the lives and photos of lone soldiers who come from 17 countries. The title comes from the iconic poet-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Anthem’, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Slomovic, an emergency room physician in Toronto, Canada, worked for over five years photographing the soldiers, taking thousands of pictures, and listening to their stories. In his work, he has selected 60 photos to tell their story, and of the land they defend. He says, “When I first heard about lone soldiers and started reading about them, it struck me that this is such an extraordinary way of searching for a sense of belonging. By looking at them I can better understand myself and the choices I have made in my life.”

At any given time, there are 3,500 foreigners serving in the IDF. Most come from North America or the former Soviet Union nations. Others come from Europe, or from countries such as Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India, and Ethiopia (a similar number classified as lone soldiers are Israelis who grew up in Israel but have no family to care for them.) What makes them come? “Some of the lone soldiers grew up in Jewish homes with Zionist leanings, while others had not known much about Israel before deciding to come. Some Jewish soldiers are not Jewish according to Jewish religious law, and some aren’t even sure of their family’s Jewish connections. Nonetheless they have all decided to throw their lot in with the Jewish people, and risk life and limb for the state and land of Israel.”

In the afterword of his monograph, Canadian author and journalist Matti Friedman observes, “Unlike soldiering in a country like America, which fights wars far away, here there are no overseas deployments and signing up doesn’t mean leaving home. Unlike the Hollywood army movies about heroes fighting single-handedly, life in a real army, and certainly this army, is plural. Getting a soldier through this time and out the other end is, for Israelis, a family project.”  Lone soldiers are fighting for something they believe in, and for something physical.” Ultimately, I believe that means they fight for the preservation of the Jewish people and the survival of their country.

(Source: The Times of Israel; by Renee Ghert-Zand)