The Colorado lone soldier project

May 1, 2024 | Article, Newsletter

When Mor Divinsky returned to Sheizaf, Israel, after living in Denver for four years, she knew she wanted to stay connected to Colorado. Yes, she could stay in touch with the many friends she had made while her husband Itai was serving as JEWISHcolorado’s Shaliach (Israeli emissary) from 2019-2023. But were there more ways to maintain the bridge she had built between Colorado and Israel?

It was the war that gave her the answer.

“When the war started, I immediately thought about the lone soldiers,” Mor says. “And I began looking for lone soldiers from Colorado.”

Divinksy family

A “lone soldier” is a soldier in the IDF with no family in Israel to support him or her.

The tens of thousands of soldiers defending the state of Israel have regular leave—weekly, biweekly, monthly—when they are allowed to go home, and their parents and family provide for their needs. But lone soldiers are in a unique situation.

“The lone soldiers don’t have a mother to make their favorite food, no one to do their laundry, to take them to Shabbat services, to provide emotional support,” Mor says.

Some lone soldiers are recent immigrants to Israel. Some have traveled to defend Israel from another country—France, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, the United States. Some lone soldiers are orphans. Some are from ultra-orthodox communities and have been shunned by their families for choosing to go into the army.

There are more than 7,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF. Many are “adopted” by families who take them into their homes when they are on leave. Others live in small communities, taking over an entire building in a kibbutz. Mor Divinisky managed to “sweeten the life” of eight lone soldiers from Colorado, but not without adding two new roles to her already busy schedule—detective and travel agent.

Finding the Colorado lone soldiers

It’s not like Mor had extra time on her hands when she undertook her lone soldier project. She is a mother of four children, ranging in age from two to 10. Her husband, Itai, had been called back to active duty in the IDF, so she was operating as a single mother. And she had just started a new job on October 8 as the Executive Assistant at the Ramat Negev Desert Agro Research Center.

Even with everything on her plate, Mor was intrigued by the idea of finding the Colorado lone soldiers and doing something to let them know they are cared about and their service is appreciated.

She started with Mayor Eran Doron and Hadass Nisan with the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council. Their initial conversation went in circles. “Is there any budget to help with this project?” Mor asked. “Well, how much budget do you need?” came the answer. “Well, that depends on how many lone soldiers there are,” Mor said. “How many are there?” came the question. So Mor set out to find the Colorado lone soldiers.

But that was no simple endeavor. There is no central office in Israel that she could call to get the names. She had to invoke all her investigative powers to get the names.

She started with an organization that helps soldiers make Aliyah and found one Colorado soldier. Another organization helped her find a second name. She called these two men and asked if they knew of any more Coloradans fighting for Israel. She also called her friends in Denver and asked them to spread the word, and she asked Mayor Doron and Nelly Ben Tal, JEWISHcolorado’s Shlicha, to help her look. With the help of these partners, she found eight Colorado lone soldiers, three women and five men.

“I called each one of them, introduced myself, and explained my connection to Colorado and to Ramat HaNegev,” she says. “I asked them where they are serving and living. And then I said, ‘I want to sweeten your life a little bit.’”

Delivering a little sweetness

On the other end of the phone, eight Coloradans fighting in the war could not believe their ears. Some were a bit suspicious. They asked Mor, “Who are you? How did you get my number?” Others wondered about her motivation and asked, “Why do you want to do this?”

“I just explained our connection to Colorado, the friendship we have with the state, the partnership we have with JEWISHcolorado,” Mor says. “I told them our connection to Colorado is individual, people-to-people.”

She couldn’t take in eight soldiers stationed all around Israel, but she could send them a gift to thank them for their service. Grandmas from her community knitted winter hats, and Mor, Hadass Nisan, and the Ramat HaNegev team filled baskets with chocolates, the homemade hats, and a note from JEWISHcolorado and Ramat HaNegev thanking the soldiers for their service. The Ramat HaNegev Regional Council covered the cost of the baskets.

But how could one mother deliver these baskets to the far-flung lone soldiers? That’s when Mor turned on her travel agent skills. Mor and Hadass returned to the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council and recruited travelers. “Who is going to Jerusalem? Who is going to Tel Aviv?” they asked. “Can you take a basket with you and deliver it?”

“We found random people going on trips,” Mor says. “We gave them the opportunity to make a mitzvah just by traveling where they were going.”

One woman soldier serving in the south of Israel was traveling on a bus for Shabbat at a kibbutz in the north. When Mor couldn’t find someone traveling to that location, she used WhatsApp to geolocate the woman’s bus, and when the bus stopped in Ramat HaNegev, she had Hadass jump onto the bus, deliver the basket, and the bus took off to the north.

The initial outreach from Mor may have been a surprise, but the response to her thoughtfulness was no surprise.

“Everyone said, ‘Oh my gosh, I cannot believe you. You made my day so sweet! It warmed my heart,’” Mor says. “When you give to others, it gives you back even more than you invest.”

Lone Soldier Basket

Mor is staying connected with the lone soldiers via text. She asks that any Coloradan considering making Aliyah to serve in the IDF as lone soldiers please reach out directly to her so she can make connections to the Ramat HaNegev community.

Looking back, Mor confesses she never knew her Colorado lone soldier project would get quite so complicated, but, she says, she would do it again.

“It filled my heart,” she says. “During a time when something awful is going on, doing something for someone else was a way to keep myself positive.”