WOODLAND HILLS (CBSLA.com) — A number of Los Angeles residents may have more at stake than most Americans in the recent escalation in the crisis in Israel.
A reported 15 percent of “Lone Soldiers” — American citizens who fight for Israel’s military — are from the LA area.
Many of these Lone Soldiers say they wanted to join the Israeli Defense Forces to protect Israeli citizens and felt it was their duty as Jewish-Americans to assist Israel.
Woodland Hills resident Katie Freeman was born and raised in Los Angeles but decided to join the Israeli army at 19.
“To leave, I mean, I haven’t been away from (my son) for more than a couple of hours, so to even think about that,” Freeman said. “I don’t want to think about that.”
Now, after fighting has intensified between Israeli forces and Palestinian Hamas militants over recent weeks in the Gaza region, there is a very real possibility that these Southland residents could be drafted into action — halfway around the world.
“I’ve never been as scared as I was as (when I was) walking into Gaza, and just seeing in front of you all the fighting that is happening,” Israeli soldier Tommy Reegev said. “You don’t know what’s going on; you just see flashes and bullets and bangs.”
On Sunday, it was reported that Woodland Hills native Max Steinberg, 24, was killed while fighting on the front lines in Gaza. The families of soldiers similar to Steinberg are all too aware of the possibilities.
“My heart is full of pride for him, (but) I’m frightened every minute, of every day, every second,” Elana Lukoff said of her son, who fights for the IDF. “We know what can happen. We all know.”
Despite the harsh reality of being called to duty, soldiers like Freeman and Reegev say that, if they receive the call, they are ready to serve Israel.
“If they do need me, I would be on the next plane,” Freeman said.
There are currently about 100 soldiers from the Los Angeles area who are fighting with the Israeli Army.