A “lone soldier” is a soldier in the IDF with no family in Israel to support him or her: a new immigrant, a volunteer from abroad, an orphan or an individual from a broken home.
Every day tens of thousands of soldiers are defending the State of Israel and its citizens. These soldiers regularly spend weekends and holidays at home where their parents provide for all of their needs: food, laundry, and even a hug. For more than 6,300 lone soldiers, there is no immediate family in Israel to support them. Though highly motivated and proud to serve, when on leave, many of them struggle with basic needs that a family would solve.
How many Lone Soldiers are there?
There are over 6,300 lone soldiers currently serving in the IDF. About 45% of these soldiers are new immigrants, coming from Jewish communities all over the world. Another 50% are Israelis who are orphans or that come from low socio-economic backgrounds. There are some that come from ultra orthodox neighborhoods who are shunned by their families and communities because they decided to go to the army.
Most lone soldiers are placed in combat units and come highly motivated to serve in the Israeli army. At any given time, these soldiers are awake and aware, guarding Israel’s borders by land, air and sea.
What are the needs of a lone soldier?
While each is their own amazing story, there are some issues that arise across the board and are common between all lone soldiers.
For lone soldiers, money becomes a major issue. A lone soldier’s monthly salary is twice of what a regular soldier in their unit would receive, but is still mostly insufficient to pay bills, do laundry, pay for furniture and home appliances, and buy food for Shabbat. Rent is subsidized by the army (up to 1048 NIS per month), but it is not enough to create a home in Israel.
By organizing meals, helping to deliver furniture and creating a community, the Lone Soldier Center helps the soldiers lower their expenses and live a bit freer of unnecessary stress.
Lack of Information about the IDF
Having the correct information is crucial when joining the IDF. Israelis grow up being taught about the army by their parents and by special programs in school. Lone soldiers generally do not have access to basic IDF information, such as: what are the different units in the army, what are the rights and benefits of being a lone soldier and who to turn to for help when they have special requests during their service.
Specially trained volunteers of the Lone Soldier Center are there to counsel and explain these important aspects of military life to the lone soldiers. Prior to their drafts, the lone soldiers are invited to special drafting seminars where crucial information such as what to bring and how to get to the draft office is explained. The volunteers continue to help the lone soldiers during their military life by being a “walking encyclopedia” of military protocols and other useful information.
Loneliness and Homesickness
Loneliness is a major problem for many lone soldiers. In the army, camaraderie is a very essential part of daily life, but when soldiers come home on weekends, they go to their homes all across Israel and enjoy their time with their families and friends. Lone soldiers are not as lucky. They all too often come home to an empty apartment with an empty fridge and must take care of the daily chores of running a home- cleaning, doing laundry, cooking and paying bills. Then, if their friends from their units do not live close by, they are stuck alone without anyone to talk to or spend time with.
The Lone Soldier Center organizes community building events such as movie nights, pub nights, Shabbat meals and more in order to help lone soldiers not feel lonely. The Center also helps lone soldiers in apartment hunting and works hard to ensure all lone soldiers find the right place to call home.