Combating Loneliness and Isolation During the Passover Season

“You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread—eating unleavened bread for seven days as I have commanded you—at the set time in the month of Abib, for in it you went forth from Egypt; and none shall appear before Me empty-handed” Exodus 23:15 (The Israel Bible™)

On the eve of April 19, Jews around the world will participate in a festive and ritual-filled Passover meal (Seder). For more than 6,900 lone soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who do not have family in Israel, or are orphans, come from dysfunctional homes, or have been disowned by their ultra-orthodox Jewish families who do not want their sons in the Israeli army, Passover can make a lone soldier feel even more alone.

Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers, the only Israeli government sanctioned organization tasked with ensuring soldier welfare, is fully aware of the challenges facing Lone Soldiers this time of year and does all that it can to help lone soldiers experience an uplifting Passover.

Yahad has been intensely preparing for Passover to ensure that every soldier, especially lone and poor soldiers, have what they need,” Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yehiel Gozal, CEO of Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers told Breaking Israel News. “This includes sponsoring festive, ritual-filled Passover meals [called seders] and gifting lone and needy soldiers with special treats, including a comfortable blanket and prepaid shopping cards.”


Yahad
– Combat Loneliness

Lone soldier, Moshe A. (name withheld for security reasons), has been serving in the IDF for the last year and a half. Moshe is considered by the IDF to be a lone soldier, after having been shunned by his family and neighborhood after he enlisted in the army.

“Growing up in an Ultra-Orthodox home, I was forbidden from joining the IDF. However, during Tzuk Eitan (Operation Protective Edge), I became impassioned to join the IDF and defend the people of Israel and the State of Israel, Moshe told Breaking Israel News.

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However, Moshe was unprepared for the reality of being ostracized from his community,  especially around the holiday of Passover.

“Most days, I am so exhausted, that I do not have a free second to feel the intensity of the isolation from my community. However, last year, in the days leading up to Passover, I was gripped by tremendous feelings of loneliness and homesickness. I watched as all my friends, packed up and looked forward to spending the holiday with their families. People don’t really understand how challenging it is to be alone, especially for Passover” continued Moshe.


Yahad
– Combat Poverty

Moshe’s spirits lifted, after attending a special pre-holiday event attended by IDF personnel and other important dignitaries who personally delivered to the soldiers special Passover gifts funded by donations to Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers by IDF supporters all over the world.

“Gifts are not just gifts when received by a lone or needy soldier,” noted Gozal. “They bring a deep feeling of camaraderie and strengthen the soldier’s sense of Holy Land.”

Encouraged by the IDF social worker, Moshe decided to participate in the joint seder for lone soldiers sponsored by Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers. This Passover Seder is a special event where lone soldiers gather to celebrate tradition and recognize the significance of the State of Israel and the honor of serving in its army.

Yahad soldiers at Israel’s President’s official residence in Jerusalem. (Courtesy: Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers)

“I have to admit, I was a bit nervous and uncertain about joining the seder. As soon, as I walked in, I felt my loneliness dissipate. I recognized a few friends and was surprised by how comforting it was to be surrounded by friends and experience the novelty of this unique Passover Seder together.” explained Moshe.

“Being a lone soldier is Israel can be daunting, exciting, challenging and inspiring all at the same time. However, being a lone soldier during the holidays, especially one as family-oriented as Passover, can make a soldier feel alone and lonely, rather than just “lone” explained Brigadier General Gozal.

Festive Holiday for IDF Soldiers

Moshe is looking forward to once again attending a joint seder for lone soldiers sponsored by Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers.

“Gifts and festive seders really make a soldier’s holiday,” explained Moshe to Breaking Israel News. “The gifts really add a lot. Knowing that people all over the world are looking out for us, and caring to make our Passover holiday more special. These gifts help ease the loneliness of lone soldiers.”