A chance encounter between a lone soldier and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led to an unusual gesture… if you’re from outside of Israel.

Lone soldiers are young Jews who come from outside of Israel and make aliyah, without their families, to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.  What would motivate a teenager or young adult to leave behind family and friends and voluntarily postpone college or a job or just their freedom?  A Jerusalem Post article from 2004 relates the stories of several lone soldiers, their motivations, and experiences.

Cherie Arildsen, formerly from Copenhagen, Denmark, qualifies as one of the world’s most gutsy girls.

Not only is she a lone soldier in the IDF, she also fought to get into an infantry unit, to serve with the toughest of the tough.

“I want to live in Israel, so I wanted to serve in army, too, to be a part of things,” she says. “And if I was going to be in the army, I wanted to go all the way: I got into an infantry unit….”

“Many people don’t understand why I wanted to be here so much. All I can say is that I love Israel, I want to do whatever I can to to help, and to be a part of it all. What other reason could there be?

Vancouver native Yonatan Feder (pictured in Yisrael HaYom) is one of those lone soldiers.  Feder’s recent fortuitous encounter with PM Netanyahu secured him a trip back to the old country in style.

At the end of the live-fire training exercise, which simulated fighting in a Hizbullah village in southern Lebanon, two soldiers with camouflage paint on their faces and fishnet on their helmets who were cast in the role of Hizbullah fighters, emerged from the boulders and were taken to meet the prime minister.

When Netanyahu asked where the soldiers were from, he was surprised to hear from Yonatan Feder – one of the soldiers – that he hailed from Vancouver.

Netanyahu told Feder he was going to Canada at the end of the month, and would send regards to his family. He then offered to take him along on his plane.

The prime minister wasn’t kidding, and as he was readying to go back to his helicopter a woman from his office approached Feder, who seemed pleasantly stunned by the whole turn of events, and asked for his name, phone number and army ID number. She then turned to his officer and instructed him to arrange a furlough for Feder at the end of the month.

Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Toronto and Ottawa at the end of May, after going to a meeting of the OECD in Paris to formally accept its invitation to join the organization.

Feder, a Givati soldier who lives on Kibbutz Ein Hashofet with other lone soldiers as part of Garin Sabar, said he had not seen his parents in over a year. He joined the army in December, and said he was completely surprised, and obviously pleased, by the prime minister’s offer.

Reuniting with your family after not seeing them for over a year?  Pretty cool.
Riding in the Prime Minister’s jet to get there?  Even cooler.

Now that they’ve gotten the introductions out of the way, what do you think Feder and Netanyahu will chat about during the flight?