Amidst the audience of more than 400 supporters of Israel sat Daniel Greenblum’s parents, thinking that in minutes they would communicate via Skype with their son, who had joined the Israeli Defense Forces more than a year ago.
But amidst the faked technical difficulties at the gala dinner of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces’ Washington, D.C., chapter Thursday at the Washington Hebrew Congregation Julia Bindeman Suburban Center in Potomac, Greenblum appeared on stage.
The surprise reunion was planned by the gala organizers, who wanted to draw attention to the “lone soldiers” — the men and women who leave their home countries to serve in the Israel military. The Washington chapter is based in Rockville.
The Gaza border is a world away from Silver Spring, where Greenblum, 22, grew up, attending the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville.
He said his family supported his decision to join the Israeli military.
“I come from a very Zionistic household,” Greenblum said. After graduating from high school in 2009, he attended the University of Maryland for a year.
“I decided that I wanted to join the army,” Greenblum said.
So in 2011, Greenblum made aliyah, or immigrated to Israel, and shortly thereafter he was drafted and joined the 101st Battalion Paratroopers Brigade.
Greenblum serves alongside other lone soldiers from Costa Rica, Canada, France and South Africa — as well as native Israelis. He recently moved out of a kibbutz into a house especially for soldiers in the city of Ra’anana, in the heart of the Sharon Plain. Greenblum says joining the army has taught him skills such as how to be independent. It’s also brought him face-to-face in Gaza with issues he had only heard about.
“There’s so much about it on the news,” Greenblum said. “But I get to see [it] first hand.”