The Israel Defense Force (IDF) presently has about 6,700 lone soldiers from 35 countries worldwide. These soldiers have left their families and country of birth to serve and protect the Jewish nation. Though they provide a positive influence to Israeli soldiers, their dedication can come at a price.
Originally from New Jersey, Aaron E. (name withheld for security reasons) moved to Israel on his own in order to be part of the Zionist dream of building and protecting the Holy Land. Today, the 21-year-old is serving in an IDF elite special commando unit.
Aaron puts all of his heart and soul into his service. “It’s very challenging and I’m proud to defend and give back to my country,” he told with Breaking Israel News. “This nation is so dear to me.”
Aaron chose to move to Israel in the summer of 2016 because Israel is “my God-given homeland and the future of the Jewish people. Only afterwards, did he recognize that part of living in Israel and being a member of the Jewish nation is serving in its military.
However, being alone in a foreign country with a different culture and participating it its army is not easy. Aaron could barely read or write Hebrew upon his arrival, and did not understand spoken Hebrew, even though he studied for his bar mitzvah in his early teens.
In order to catch up, he studied Hebrew in ulpan (Hebrew language classes for new immigrants) and also attended three months of a special military language acquisition program. Today, he is fluent in Hebrew.
“I am the only lone soldier in my unit,” Aaron said. “I had to jump in and fully integrate in order to succeed.”
Aaron said his IDF comrades have all been supportive and strive to understand his predicament.
“Many say that if they were in my position [not having to serve in an army], they’d choose to be on the beach,” he said with a smile. “However, my volunteering to serve strengthens their resolve and they say that it has a positive influence on them.”
Being a lone soldier comes with many challenges beyond lack of language and cultural knowledge. On weekends off, Israeli soldiers generally go home to their family and friends where they are met with to receive VIP treatment. They have a place where someone else does their laundry, makes them a home-cooked meal, and prepares for the holidays.
Most lone soldiers rely on organizations, such as Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers, to ensure that these important needs are met. Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers provides lone soldiers with specialized housing that has laundry facilities and services, warm meals and holiday celebrations.
For the Passover holiday, Yahad ran a gift campaign where supporters could donate blankets and other treats to lone soldiers and send a personal note of appreciation.
“I received a great blanket from Yahad for the holiday,” said Aaron. “This was a particularly helpful gift, as I had been stacking summer blankets, one on top of the other, to stay warm. I was excited to receive a normal blanket.”
In addition, Aaron received a shopping voucher that could be used at many Israeli stores in order to buy new clothes to honor the holiday.
“I got a new sweater and jacket,” Aaron said excitedly. “These gifts provide a better quality of life to IDF soldiers.”
Aaron explained that lone soldiers often do not know how or where they will get something as practical and relevant as a warm blanket.
“Lone soldiers, as well as all IDF soldiers, really appreciate that someone from around the world cares about their welfare,” said Aaron. “Their donations, which go toward meaningful gifts, are like giving IDF soldiers a warm hug. We recognize that there is a special consideration behind these gifts and it means alot to us. Donors should know that, to IDF soldiers, your support says that you are aware of us and that we matter to you.”
To donate to Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers, where 100% of your donation directly supports IDF soldier welfare, please visit here.
Written in coordination with Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers.