They left home to serve in the Israeli army, for the most part in combat units. But that doesn't mean they don't miss their families. This is where the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) comes in. A non-profit with offices in the US and Panama, the FIDF tends to the needs of soldiers who have come to Israel with the expressed purpose of enlisting. Among its many activities, the organization also flies soldiers home to visit the people they left behind.
Roughly 80% of the flights funded for lonely soldiers to visit their families and friends are paid for by the FIDF. Last year, this included 917 flights.
David, a combat soldier in the Rotem Regiment, belonging to the Givati Brigade, made aliyah fro France together with six of his school friends. "My mother asked me to come home for Paris, since I haven't seen my family in almost a year," he said. "I arrived especially for the Shavuot meal, which is very important for my family. Everyone is present during that meal." He added that he plans on remaining in Israel after his army service. "Of course I'm staying here. I want to study and live here. I really love this land and was raised on Zionism."
Arielle Zuckerman (20) made aliyah from New Jersey. She has been serving an instructor in the Home Front Command for a year and a half. She stated that she had made aliyah for herself but mainly for her grandfather, who is a Holocaust survivor. She added that it means a lot to her and her grandfather that she made aliyah and is serving in the land the Jews in the Holocaust had dreamt to live. She decided to surprise her family by arriving to attend her brother's graduation from medical school. She stated that she arrived at night, and that it took her mother a few seconds to register that she was standing in front of her. She ended up staying for a month.
Daniel Mishler (24) came from Texas. He recalls talking about making aliyah with his mother and buying a ticket one week later. He has been serving in Givati's reconnaissance platoon for two years and nine months. When the homesickness grew to be too much, Daniel decided to surprise his family, as well. He flew out to a house where they were staying, in New York, arriving a few minutes before they did. They were stunned, and after an emotional reunion he, too, spent the next month with his family. Mishler admits that life in Israel can get lonely, but that the people here help fill the gap.