Friday, January 17, 2014

Leaving a comfortable life, but making a difference. A guitar maker turned paratrooper

...Louis Berman, a guitar maker from South Carolina, came on Birthright Israel's 10-day tour and fell in love with the country • "A strong Israel and a strong IDF will guarantee the safety of the Jews in the Diaspora. I want to help and contribute," he says.

Danny Brenner..
Israel Hayom..
17 January '14..

What prompts a young guitar maker and music major to make aliyah, enlist in the Israel Defense Forces and strap a different kind of instrument on his shoulder? Taglit-Birthright Israel, an initiative that brings Jewish youths on short trips to Israel.

Louis Berman, a 24-year-old from South Carolina, didn't know much about Israel until his 10-day trip to Israel.

"I knew this was the holy land and that Jews pray for its continued existence and success. But that's it," he recalls. "I wasn't particularly interested in the subject; neither were my parents or two younger siblings."

But things changed quickly as a result of his short visit.

"I fell in love with this amazing country and I resolved to make aliyah, to be a paratrooper in the IDF and to help Israel's security," he said. Berman is currently attending a preparatory course at an IDF base in northern Israel.

Berman played the piano and the trumpet from childhood, and at 13, he started playing guitar. After graduating from high school he enrolled in a music program at the University of South Carolina. During his studies, he worked at a guitar workshop.

"When I came in to tune my guitar I was awed by the place," he said. "I asked the owner whether I could work there and learn how to build guitars. I worked my way through college by making electric guitars. Each guitar is hand-made and tailored to the customer's specific needs. After three months it is ready. It costs $1,200."

Berman's parents supported his move to Israel, but his friends were less approving.

"My parents and siblings were proud of me, but my friends thought I was nuts, although they conceded the IDF was the best army," he said. "The most important thing is that I am happy. You feel what anti-Semitism is only when you live as a Jew in the Diaspora. A strong Israel and a strong IDF will guarantee the safety of the Jews in the Diaspora. I want to help and contribute; that is why I came here. I consider this important as a Jew, although it is not too easy being here alone, without family or friends, at a relatively old age. All of my commanders and peers are younger, but when you realize why you have come here, your age plays no role. What matters is the objective."

Tzvika Levy, who coordinates activities for lone soldiers on behalf of the Kibbutz movement, has high praise for Berman.

"Louis is very determined; he left his comfortable life in the United States, his family, his friends and his guitar-making career and he came to serve in the Paratroopers Brigade," Levy said. "This is true Zionism, and I salute his contribution."


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