The IDF currently has over 5,000 lone soldiers serving in its ranks. Lone soldiers fly in from all over the world to volunteer–French, English, American, Russian, Canadian, Mexican, Australian and many, more. However, last week the IDF officially recognized the first-ever Druze lone soldier. Meet Pvt. Fadi Abd Elhak:
Fadi was born and raised in Brazil, and thus not obligated to serve in the IDF. However, just a few months shy of his 18th birthday–the IDF conscription age–Fadi decided to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps by flying to Israel and volunteering to serve. “I didn’t want to be different; I wanted to do my part for the country,” he explains.
Fadi’s grandfather, Col. (res.) Sayid Abd Elhak, is a reservist in the IDF and takes care of Fadi in his parents’ absence. He was the first commander of the all-Druze Herev Battalion, the same battalion Fadi joined, and was the first person from a Druze family to achieve such a position. Sayid had an illustrious military career and he even met the former chief of staff, Ehud Barak. Upon his grandson’s arrival, Sayid contacted Fadi’s future battalion commanders to inform them and assigned Fadi a personal translator to help with the Hebrew.
Fadi is progressing rapidly in Hebrew, as well as in his weapons training. “At first, the weapon seemed dangerous to me, but after you learn to use it you realize that’s not the case,” he says. Fadi also met a fellow Brazilian during his training: “Speaking Portuguese in the middle of the desert was a very special experience for me.”
When he reached his base, Fadi received an international phone card in order to keep in touch with loved ones in Brazil. He also keeps in touch with friends through social media sites. To the girl he dated before he left, he promised: “I’ll visit again in a year, since I deserve a flight home, just like any other lone soldier.”