While most 20-year-old young adults in the United States are worrying about getting to class on time, some are working, and a few may be starting a family. Sahar Elbaz is busy being decorated by IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for action he took during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.
Like most soldiers in Israel, Elbaz was doing his duty for Israel. But he is not like most soldiers in Israel—he is a Lone Soldier (a soldier with family living outside of Israel) and an American citizen. Born in Denver, Colorado to Israeli parents, Elbaz was raised in Orange County and graduated from TVT in 2012. Following graduation, he made aliyah to Israel and eventually joined a special unit in the IDF trained in desert and urban warfare. Elbaz was called for active duty during a family vacation in Israel to fight in Operation Protective Edge with the elite Givati Brigade. During the war, he took action that earned him the Chief of Staff Citation (HaRamatkal). His action saved the lives of fellow soldiers and killed four terrorists. According to Elbaz’s father, Shimon Elbaz, his son was rather pragmatic about the action. “He had to act,” says the senior Elbaz. “It was kill them [the terrorists] or they were going to kill his friends and him.” He also said that this is the first time the Chief of Staff Citation has been awarded for an action without Israeli casualties.
Elbaz was raised in a home steeped in Jewish and Israeli culture. Despite the “All American” veneer (he loves the Denver Broncos and Lakers) Elbaz grew up knowing he would serve in the IDF. His father served and all of the children (he has one older and one younger sister) learned a love for Israel that created a direct connection to their homeland (Elbaz’s older sister is serving in the IDF and his younger sister plans to serve as well). But despite serving himself, the senior Elbaz says having a child serve in the IDF is tough on parents. “You do not hear from your child for weeks at a time,” he says. But the Israeli and Jewish community in Israel is very supportive of soldiers. “And though Sahar has a lot of family in Israel, you miss your parents,” says Elbaz. The young soldier’s family is very proud of his award. However, it is clear they care even more that he is safe for now. Thanks to the Libi Fund (the official fund that supports the IDF) the Elbaz family was able to attend the award ceremony in Israel. As a Lone Soldier, The Libi Fund brought the family from America to Israel ensuring that Sahar was temporarily a soldier who was not “lone.” “We are very proud of him,” says his father.
The Orange County Jewish Community is proud of him as well.
Lisa Grajewski, Psy.D. Is a licensed psychologist with JFFS and an adjunct instructor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She has been a contributing writer for Jlife Magazine since 2004.