Lone soldiers celebrate Passover with special Seder feast
Some 250 lone IDF soldiers come together to celebrate Passover. For most, this is their first Seder away from their families and their countries of birth; 'It makes me very happy that the army is taking care of us like this,' says Givati soldier Vladimir Steinman, who immigrated to Israel from Latvia.
For most of them, this is their first Seder away from their countries of birth and their families.
May Cassif, 20, who made aliyah from Boston and serves at a religious college for girls in Har Gilo in Jerusalem, talked about how happy she was about her decision to immigration to Israel in 2016.
"This is a very cool country. There may be a lot of difficulties compared to where I come from, but this is what makes this country interesting," she said.
A year ago she was in basic training, but this year would be her first Passover as an Israeli citizen. "My family is very happy I'm here," she said.
Vladimir Steinman, 21, feels the same. He immigrated to Israel in 2014 from Latvia, and currently serves in the Givati Brigade's reconnaissance platoon. "It makes me very happy that the army is taking care of us like this," he said.
He said he was happy to be wearing the olive green uniforms. "I'm Zionist, and that is why I wanted to make aliyah. My family stayed behind, and I'm trying to convince them (to come)," he said.
This is Steinman's third Passover in Israel and the first in the IDF. "The last two years, I celebrated with my adoptive family," he said.
Ivan Lavrov, 21, who made aliyah from Belarus five years ago and lives with his grandmother, is one of the more veteran immigrants.
Lavrov, who serves as a technician for a Puma IFV in the IDF's Engineering Corps, told Ynet that while this is his fifth Passover in Israel, he was still very excited to be celebrating it in IDF uniforms with hundreds of soldiers.
"I made aliyah through the Masa Israel organization and then went to a pre-army school at Tel Aviv University before enlisting," he described his journey.
"Of course I miss my parents. I'm personally very close to my mother, who lives in Belarus," he admitted.
The head of the IDF's Manpower Directorate, Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, also attended the special Seder, telling the lone soldiers, "The story of Israel's escape from Egypt has a positive ending. It starts with despair, as a pessimistic story, but it ends with freedom. To reach that, we need people to believe in freedom, make decisions and take actions."
The event was organized by Yahad - United for Israel's Soldiers, a joint organization of AWIS (Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers) and The Libi Fund.
An additional 150 soldiers who were invited could not make it due to the high tensions on the Gaza border, which required many lone soldiers to stay in their bases or otherwise deploy to the border.
At another event that took place Thursday in the southern resort city of Eilat, some 200 IDF orphans released hundreds of balloons into the air with the writing "Dear Father." They attached letters to the balloons addressed to fathers who were killed while performing their duty in Israel's security forces.