The Wings Program: Advocates for Lone Soldiers

<a href=The Wings Program for Lone Soldiers, run by the Merage Foundation and the Jewish Agency for Israel, was represented last week in a caucus for lone soldiers in the Israeli Knesset. The caucus convened to discuss the issue of lone immigrant soldiers and their integration into Israeli society after their release from the IDF.

The caucus, headed by four members of Knesset, works throughout the year on behalf of lone soldiers and helps advocate for legislation representing lone soldiers. The Wings Program was represented in Knesset by Wings’ executive staff along with 20 graduates of the Wings Program.

The Wings Program, jointly run by the David & Laura Merage Foundation and the Jewish Agency for Israel, provides aid and support to lone immigrant soldiers before, during, and for up to two years after their release from the IDF. Wings was created to provide a response to the challenges faced by lone soldiers upon release from the IDF, in recognition of their great potential. Previously, with no formal structure in place to ease this transition period, many Zionistic new immigrants returned to their home countries after their service in the IDF. The program has been operating for more than 10 years and helps around 800 lone soldiers annually.

Adi Boblil, executive director from the Merage Foundation, thanked the members of the Knesset who initiated the caucus and said:

I am extremely pleased and welcome this important initiative in Knesset. I would like to thank members of Knesset Michael Oren, MK Itzik Shmuli, MK Dr. Aliza Lavi, and MK Meirav Ben Ari for heading this caucus on such an important issue. The integration of young immigrants into Israeli society as part of the next generation of Israel’s leadership is crucial.

The positive integration of these young people into society can take place in the most beneficial way only if all of us, all organizations dealing with lone soldiers, unite and cooperate for the sake of the lone immigrant soldier. We will later introduce a model of cooperation which I believe each of our partners in the goal to aid lone soldiers will be able to contribute to so that together we can continue to move forward toward fruitful and productive cooperation.

Mira Keidar, executive director from the Jewish Agency, added:

We need to establish a partnership committee that will become a united body to lead the synchronization between the different organizations. This will create congruence between the needs of released soldiers with the activities and services provided to them in order for them to integrate into Israeli society properly. This requires us to build a separate organizational infrastructure for leading the partnership whose purpose is to design, manage, guide, and support the cooperative process.

Deena Walker, a recent graduate of the Wings Program and a former lone soldier from the United States, served as a combat soldier in an artillery unit. Deena thanked the Wings Program for enabling her to organize her life financially and prepare herself towards citizenship and academic studies in the country she so loves. Deena added, “Wings provided me with valuable tools for the purpose of being a significant citizen.”

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