Oct 30, 2016  By Phyllis Chancy Solomon  Category: Travel,

Grandma with two IDF lone soldiers in family reflects on shared values

Phyllis, far right, and the extended Solomon gang. 

As a member of the Sapphire Society and co-chair of Women for Israel in Central New Jersey, I often think about my journey with JNF and how I got to where I am today. Many people planted the seeds. 
Emma, the bat mitzvah. 

My parents, Ben and Ceil Chancy, were ardent Zionists involved in organizations supporting Israel pre-1948. I remember my mother sewing layettes with her friends for the babies emigrating from Europe to Israel and the joy my mom and dad felt in reaching across the world with their love and compassion. My husband, Herb, had a strong desire to visit Israel and join, work, and support all causes Israeli. He was the driving force that ignited our family's interest. 

And, of course, there's the JNF family, and in particular Vivian Grossman, who walked me through my first JNF trip and continues to provide support and guidance as I take on new responsibilities. 

I have five grandchildren, and they occupy equal places in my heart and life. I often find myself reflecting on what I will leave as a legacy and what more I can do to make sure they will always be loyal to their heritage. There is no magic formula to guarantee they will feel what I feel. However, knowing that, I still continue to nudge, tell the story, and of course pray there will always be continuity for our people.

Lone soldier Andrew embracing mom Ellen
This past year, two of my grandchildren made strong commitments to their people. With great joy, we bore witness as our own Emma became a bat mitzvah. She worked on her haftorah with the guidance of her teacher and made a strong point in telling her story and the place she wants to take among her people. Knowing her history and becoming a daughter of the commandment now entitles her to take the baton. I am proud she has made this commitment to her people-hood. 

I am equally proud that this year my grandson Andrew, after two years of college, made aliyah, fell in love with the country, and became a member of the IDF's Kefir Brigade as a chayal boded, or lone soldier. 

Andrew is actually my second grandson to become a chayal boded. Ben was a chayal boded in Nahal in 2010. I believe he was inspired to volunteer by his father, who was a Golani when he served in the IDF before marrying my daughter. 

I am very proud of both grandsons, each with their own very personal motivations. They are proud young Jewish men, deeply connected to their roots. Of course while in Israel they miss Monday Night Football and the New York Rangers, as well as the meals Mom makes. Early-morning push-ups aren't always easy, but such complaints seem small in comparison with the magnitude of what their service means. Life is good.

Phyllis and grandson Andrew together 
in Israel last week.
Andrew's mother is, of course, concerned about his well being, but after seeing him this past August and seeing the maturity and pride he displayed, she is very proud of him. I saw Andrew after I completed the JNF Spirit of Israel tour on October 27. I heard his stories, and I shared my tales with him as well. He is very proud of the work I am doing for the land and people of Israel. Together as a family, we hold Israel in our hearts and not only support JNF projects, but personally are accountable as Ben and Andrew have displayed so courageously.

Many people wonder how there are two lone soldiers in one family. I would venture to say it's because they were always in hearing range of discussions about maintaining loyalty to Israel and the importance of supporting it, no matter what happens. I imagine they were all influenced when in 2014, my daughter Lori and grandson Dylan joined me on the JNF Solidarity Mission during Operation Protective Edge to lend support and assistance in any way needed. 

In our family, there are never questions of why. Usually, it is when and what do we have to do? Today, I feel elated and joyful. Things are great in the Solomon family and hopefully, tomorrow it will continue so the continuity of our people will be insured for the future members of our family and the Jewish world at large.