Photos by Jared Bernstein Photography, courtesy of Nefesh B’Nefesh
About 190 “Lone Soldiers” — immigrants who have come to Israel without their families to serve in the Israeli army, finished a special Hebrew instruction course run by the IDF this week.
The soldiers, about 100 of whom are headed to combat units, recently made Aliyah from 25 countries from around the world. The graduation ceremony took place on the Michve Alon base in northern Israel, and was attended by Major General Orna Barbivay, who heads the Personnel Directorate of the IDF. The Lone Soldiers were among 500 IDF soldiers finishing the course. The Hebrew Course in Michve Alon is required for all immigrant soldiers and varies from two weeks to three months in length depending on the soldier’s Hebrew proficiency.
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Dan Hirsch, 23, a Lone Soldier from Mexico, who is planning to serve in a special combat unit in the Navy, said:
It’s an amazing feeling to be here after dreaming about this moment for so long. I was very moved at the ceremony; listening to the Israeli National Anthem while wearing the IDF uniform means a lot to me. This is my generation’s turn to take charge.
The soldiers are supported by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF)/Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program. The program works in collaboration with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Tzofim youth movement “Garin” (kernel) Tzabar, and assists newly arrived soldiers with the transition into their new lives in Israel and national service by offering guidance, social support, care packages, adoptive families and financial aid, as well as assistance to parents of Lone Soldiers in the form of information and support.
Yaakov Rothstein, 19, from Colombia, who is planning to serve in a combat unit, said:
I know that I’m being described as a Lone Soldier, but the truth is that I’m not alone. I am surrounded by many amazing people, including Nefesh B’Nefesh staff who help me and make me feel at home. I’m the happiest person in the world, and am looking forward to doing my service for the Jewish people’s army.