Despite the fact that most lone soldiers do not have biological parents in Israel, they are not really ever alone. The Israeli army and many support organizations make sure that lone soldiers receive the care and treatment they need in order to serve in the IDF.
IDF soldiers (illustration) Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News
Lone soldiers are a unique characteristic of the IDF. Lone soldiers are IDF soldiers who do not have biological parents in Israel (mainly new immigrants) or soldiers who are estranged from their families. According to the IDF, about 5,000 IDF soldiers are considered lone soldiers. Most of them are new immigrants. 30% of lone soldiers serve in combat units while 20% serve in combat-support positions.
The IDF helps these soldiers with financial and emotional struggles, giving them additional benefits such as an extra stipend in their monthly salary, days off from the army in order to arrange personal affairs that cannot be done over the weekend when soldiers have off, special leaves while their parents are visiting the country, monthly food stipends, apartment rental assistance and more. Also, the army pays the airfare for a one-time 30-day leave for a lone soldier to visit his or her parents abroad.
In addition to the benefits given to all IDF soldiers after their release, the Israeli military also funds an academic scholarship for lone soldiers. The IDF will also subsidize the cost of the psychometry exam for discharged lone soldiers.
There are also several support organizations for lone soldiers. Among other things, the Nefesh b’Nefesh/Friends of the IDF Lone Soldiers Program can help lone soldiers find hosts for Shabbat and holidays and adoptive families. The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin hosts Shabbat meals and social events exclusively for lone soldiers. Another support organization for lone soldiers called Big Brother is made up of former lone soldiers who help current lone soldiers by sharing their personal experiences from their army service and guiding them through various struggles.
IDF soldiers (illustration) Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/Channel 2 News
“The lone soldiers who enlist into the IDF usually do so because they feel a sense of commitment and are highly motivated,” explained Lieutenant (res.) Bonnie Erez, who served as the head soldiers’ welfare officer in the Givati Brigade. “This is why they serve in meaningful positions. During their IDF service, their connection to Israel becomes stronger and they establish a social foundation for the rest of their life in Israel.”
“The support that the lone soldiers receive from the military and the other organizations during their service and after their release helps them adjust quickly and effectively to the life in Israel and feel like they belong in the country,” added Erez.