Louisvillian Josh Roberts Is Now Serving in the IDF

Dear Louisville,

I grew up in your city. I attended middle school at Highland, and continued on to Atherton. I received my Bachelor’s at UofL. I have always “bled red” for our city.

As a young man fresh out of university, I traveled to Israel for half a year. Seeing the views, meeting the people, feeling the sand between my toes while looking across the ocean, or drinking tea with the locals, even the amusing reality check my group and I received from the sand storms in the Negev deep in the south of Israel, one could not help but fall in love.

There were a number of Israelis, however, that I met, some who finished the army, some who were entering. There were two who had the largest impact on me and my beliefs.

Lior – an amazing woman whose love for Israel shines like the Israeli desert sun itself. She was my guide. My friend. Sharing tea with her countless times, going on trips where the history of the land was explained to us, and letting us view all of Israel (including underwater) … she helped mold my love for Israel and the Israeli people.

Then there was Ran. Ran became like a brother to me. He was doing a special year before starting his army service. He was to go into combat. I made a promise to Ran, that while my current trip was soon to be over, I would come back and fight alongside him.

Something inside me couldn’t leave him. Leave Lior. Leave any of them. I couldn’t leave Israel without knowing that I too did my part.

It took time for my aliyah papers to go through. When I returned and was in Ulpan (Hebrew learning school), Operation Pillar of Smoke occurred. At the time I was living on a kibbutz near enough to Gaza to see the constant barrage of Gazan “fireworks” (rockets) towards Israel. I remember being on Skype with some friends back home and even they could hear the booms and my building shake. I remember those eight days vividly. It did not deter me; instead it motivated me even more.

Now I’m a warrior in the Israel Defense Force. While there have indeed been struggles, emotional more than physical, never once have I wished I never joined. I am 27, much older than my Israeli brothers in arms, but I feel like many of them look up to me as a man.

I was not forced to be here, but I chose to be. Standing up for your beliefs is what makes you an adult. Being someone others can count on. Being true to yourself. Fighting for your goals.

I’ve fought, emotionally and physically. I stand here now, as a Lone Soldier in the IDF, as a warrior for the Holy Land, as a fellow Louisvillian. We, here in Israel – all of us – need your support.

All over the country, these rockets rain down. Thankfully, the Iron Dome and the hundreds of bunkers, alongside the sirens, help protect our citizens. But this reality shouldn’t be a reality.

We shouldn’t have to run for cover in our own country. Children shouldn’t be scared to go to school because rockets may rain down. Or scared to sleep in their house at night and wonder if they should sleep in the bunker instead.

Operation Protective Edge is our fight for safety. Our fight to attempt to give a normal life to these children by the end of this. To where elementary school children will not need to sing a song about and during the Red Alert sirens to try to silence their anxiety while under fire.

We do not want to be inside Gaza. We hate when any civilian is hurt, whether by Hamas, or us returning fire at Hamas. We try our best to avoid the human shields.

We also hate the rockets falling near our homes, into our homes, our schools, hotels, cars. We are doing what we feel needs to be done. The rockets are constant. The threat is very real and it hits all of us – soldier and civilian alike – adult and child alike.

Lone soldiers are close here. We attend events together. Celebrate holidays together if we can. We understand each other’s struggle. We are all like brothers and sisters. I am sad to say, out of the 13 who died last night, giving the ultimate sacrifice, two were also American Lone Soldiers.

Our hearts break. I find myself honestly struggling to write these words. It’s a realization to the truth of the situation, including my own as a Lone Soldier. But I promise you, none of us regret being here. We would do it again. We stand for Israel. We need you to stand with us through these difficult times.

Josh Roberts
Combat Lone Soldier, IDF

Editor’s note: A Lone Soldier is an individual serving in the IDF who has made aliyah alone and has no immediate family in the country.

The Jewish Federation of Louisville is raising money through its “Stop the Sirens” campaign to help those affected by this war.

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