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Carmel Academy head is treated to a visit from her soldier son

Special to the Ledger

Carmel Academy’s Nora Anderson with her son Noam sohn, who is currently serving in the IDF.

Carmel Academy’s Nora Anderson with her son Noam sohn, who is currently serving in the IDF.

When Nora Anderson, head of school at Carmel Academy in Greenwich, stood in front of a packed audience at the Westchester/CT Chapter’s Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) 10th Annual Gala on Dec. 5, she had no idea that she was about to get a surprise of a lifetime.

Anderson, whose son Noam Sohn is currently serving in an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) infantry combat unit, was asked to speak as the mother of a “lone soldier,” she delivered the speech, emotionally expounding about the challenges of soldiers who don’t have family in Israel.

“I cannot describe how hard it is for lone soldier families to be away from our children during their IDF service…and how much we miss them,” Anderson told the group of more than 200 people. “While most soldiers get to go home every few weekends, Noam and his friends have made their ‘homes’ away from their parents.”

“From the time he was in eighth grade, his dream was to serve in the IDF,” Anderson said of Noam, a 2007 Carmel Academy alumnus. “His rationale: what right do we in the Diaspora have to visit Israel as often as we wish and not share the responsibility of guarding her. In his young mind, serving alongside Israelis was the one way he felt he could truly and meaningfully safeguard and support Israel.”

She thanked the FIDF for supporting lone soldiers with housing, host families and funds so that they can return home each year to visit their families.

The evening’s emcee, comedian and Carmel parent Joel Chasnoff, joined Anderson on stage at the conclusion of her speech, telling her and the audience that there would be a surprise visit with Noam, via Skype. After some alleged technical difficulties, Chasnoff blurted out, “Don’t worry, Noam is coming.” And, indeed he did – appearing on stage to the surprise and delight of all.

Dressed in his IDF uniform, Noam delivered a moving speech about his decision to join the Israeli army and how the FIDF Lone Soldier program has helped support him over this past year.

Noam Sohn speaks with Carmel Academy students about his experiences in the IDF.

Noam Sohn speaks with Carmel Academy students about his experiences in the IDF.

“We do not like the term ‘Lone Soldier’ because FIDF ensures that we rarely feel alone. Everything from the holiday vouchers we receive to the events FIDF hosts and the free flights home creates an environment that makes us feel appreciated. We feel that we do have a family with us,” he told the audience.

Noam said he has known since September that the FIDF was planning to bring him home to visit his family, but kept the secret from his mom. His trip was made possible through the FIDF Lone Soldiers Program, which assists soldiers who have left their countries of origin to make Aliyah (move to Israel), join the IDF, and serve the State of Israel. FIDF supports Lone Soldiers financially, socially, and emotionally during their challenging military service.

Over the course of the next few days, Noam, who joined the IDF in 2011 and currently serves as a combat soldier in the Nachal Infantry Brigade, spoke to several groups about his decision to serve in the IDF and his experiences as a soldier. Before returning to Israel, he stopped by Carmel Academy, the school that he says sparked his love and commitment to Israel. There, he visited classrooms, where he talked to students about life in the army, answered questions – and sang HaTikvah with second graders.

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