Israel’s army is much more than just an army – for some of its soldiers, it’s the only close family they have in the Jewish state, one that helps them with everything they need.
They’re known as lone soldiers – soldiers without close family in the country. Nearly 6,000 of these lone soldiers serve in Israel’s army, roughly half of them coming from abroad and leaving their families behind to voluntarily serve.
“It’s one of the best experiences I have ever had. Nevermind the difficulties, nevermind the challenges, all in all, it’s a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone,” Amit Ya’akubovitz, a shooting instructor born in California, told i24NEWS about his time in Israel’s army.
Moving to a new country is always difficult, but doing so while spending your days in the military is even harder as it means no spare time to take care of the bureaucracy involved in day-to-day life in Israel.
But the army’s Lone Soldier Welfare Department is dedicated to helping them take care of that, and Monday was the climax of a week-long salute to lone soldiers. The department, along with civilian organizations working for new immigrants and lone soldiers – such as Nefesh B'Nefesh and Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) – organized a special day for those soldiers aimed at allowing those soldiers to finish in a few hours what would take them months, or even years, to do on their own.
“There is no doubt that when there is a day like this when they bring everything together into one station, it makes our lives so much easier. People don’t understand the lengths that it can help us,” said Ya’akubovitz.
Lieutenant Geffen Farber, who heads the Lone Soldier Welfare Department, said that some 40 different government branches and organizations attended the bureaucratic convention: “Anything that the lone soldier needs so that bureaucratic processes, which take years to complete, can be done here in one day."
The lone soldiers are in the army for the entirety of the week, with no family to deal with bureaucratic issues for them. When they are home during the weekends, they are busy with home chores, not to mention government branches are closed.
A day that allows them to do so much in one day is a true blessing.
“You go home on weekends and you have to take care of everything yourself. You don’t only take care of your laundry and your cooking, but also have to handle your life that is still continuing. Events like these help us out because they allow us to serve much better,” said Yonatan Haim, a combat engineering soldier born in New York.
“I already met with the electric company. I am seeing if I can meet with the Interior Ministry to work on various issues there. There is definitely plenty of room to do work today,” Haim said.
Noya Govrin, who manages the lone soldier program at Nefesh B'Nefesh and FIDF, said she met soldiers who were able to finish in hours errands that at any other time would take them months to complete.
“I spoke with people who already had their passport done, did their drivers test, got the grant they are entitled to from the Absorption Ministry… all in one day,” Govrin told said.
Ultimately, everyone benefits. The soldiers get help with their errands and Israel’s army gets happier personnel who have one thing less to care for. Passports, bills, banks, even sewing uniforms – a one-stop shop for everything. Every Israeli, lone soldier or not, is grateful for that.
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.