This article by Alexi Cohan was originally published in the Boston Herald

Marissa Krasner has put off carrying books around campus, for now. Instead, this 22-year-old shoulders an M16.

The Newton native is one of about 800 “Lone Soldiers” from America helping defend Israel in some of the most dangerous posts on the planet.

It’s a calling, she said.

“It’s a really big decision to leave your family and friends,” she said during a rare visit back home. “I was scared.”

As a combat soldier who has been assigned to “very tough situations” in the West Bank and Gaza, she learned to cope quickly. She’s heading back into service as Palestinians continue to clash with Israeli soldiers along the Gaza-Israel perimeter fence.

“It’s definitely had its ups and downs. ... I adjusted very well, though. I adjust well to new situations,” she told the Herald.

Krasner recently had the rare opportunity to come back to the Bay State for a month thanks to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. The nonprofit organization supports Lone Soldiers by funding their flights home.

Krasner, who will be finishing up her two-year service this spring, said she had her heart set on serving in Israel after spending a gap year in the country after high school.

“I knew I had to return,” she said.

After going through the application process and finalizing the details of her service, Krasner said her two biggest fears were learning Hebrew and adjusting to life in the army.

Marissa Krasner on patrol in Israel.
Marissa Krasner on patrol in Israel.

Guy Ronen, the executive director of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces of New England, said giving Lone Soldiers the opportunity to come home is “an amazing experience.”

“It’s our privilege to give these kids, who go to Israel and sacrifice so much for IDF, to go and see their family,” said Ronen.

Despite Krasner’s fears about adjusting to life in Israel, one thing made her feel comfortable — the welcoming nature of her fellow soldiers.

“The people, they are very welcoming ... I just like the whole culture because there is something special about it,” she said.

Ronen said Israelis will often welcome Lone Soldiers into their home for shabbat dinner every week and turn into an “adoptive family.”

“Israelis are willing to do almost anything and for Lone Soldiers, they love them. ... My hope is that the Lone Soldiers feel like they’re taken care of,” said Ronen.

ON PATROL: Israeli soldier and Newton native Marissa Krasner sits atop a military vehicle in Israel.
Marissa Krasner sits atop a military vehicle in Israel.

After Krasner finishes her service, she plans to stay in Israel permanently and wants to travel and study early childhood education. She hopes to become a physical therapist for disabled children.

“Enjoy the moment,” she advised other Lone Soldiers, “take it all in because you’re never going to get another opportunity like that.”