‘Fear not, for I am with you, Be not frightened, for I am your God; I strengthen you and I help you, I uphold you with My victorious right hand’ Isaiah 41:10 (The Israel Bible™)
Some of them cross an ocean and with just a little more than the clothes on their backs, leave their family back home to join the IDF. Others are born and raised Israelis, but a stroke of bad luck led them to feel as if they are orphans in their own homeland. These are lone soldiers. While other IDF soldiers are welcomed to a warm home where they can rest their weary heads, lone soldiers are very much alone. But they don’t have to be.
Organizations like “ Yahad” – United for Israel’s Soldiers, the joint organization of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and The Libi Fund, is the official body for donations that go directly to IDF soldiers. Since they are supported by the Ministry of Defense, 100% of all donations go directly to the soldiers themselves. That means no overhead costs, just pure financial support for programs that help enrich and support IDF soldiers. There are some 6,400 Lone Soldiers from 80 countries serving in the IDF today. About 880 are American, 530 are Russian, 520 are Ukrainian, and 460 are French. Sixty-eight percent of Lone Soldiers are men, while 32 percent are women.
For lone and also combat soldiers, Yahad which works in cooperation with the Friends of the IDF has coordinated a robust “fun day” for these special warriors. These days of back-to-back activities are part of soldier appreciation week, which began three years ago. “We felt there needed to be an opportunity for everyone to say thank you for everything these soldiers do to keep us safe,” Anat Gur, the marketing manager for Yahad said. “These fun days is an opportunity for them to have a day to relax and break away from their grueling routine.”During this fun day, soldiers will be able to let their hair down and make a splash – literally. Hundreds will gather outside of Tel Aviv at Israel’s largest water-park to bask in the sun and for a moment, forget about the daunting responsibilities hanging over their heads everyday.
For lone soldiers, in particular, it’s both emotional and exhilarating to see that they are just one of hundreds who decided to take the biggest leap of faith imaginable to defend the Jewish state. It is there, among the waterslides, popsicles, and barbecues that they are able to bond with other soldiers from near and far. From speaking to soldiers who are from their very same hometown to commiserating with another soldier who grew up on the other side of their world, they understand that while their backgrounds are different their devotion to Israel is one and the same. Next week, some 5,000 lone soldiers will participate in a day of fun which will take place in Shefayim Water Park, a few kilometers north of Tel Aviv. The day before, combat soldiers, too, will be able to relax at the water park and enjoy a pool party of their very own.
However, since the IDF protects Israel all year long, Yahad understands that supporting the troops shouldn’t be limited to one week alone. As such, the welfare organization coordinates several year-long programs to give soldiers a helping hand. Some examples of their initiatives include providing airfare for lone soldiers, funding housing programs so they have a roof over their heads when they’re not on duty and coordinating events for families of fallen soldiers. To make these programs possible, then, Yahad relies on generous donations. Since Israel’s security matters are a 24/7 affair, so too, is the need to ensure that the country’s protectors have their basic physical and psychological needs met so they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
But on these IDF fun days, soldiers gladly trade in their uniforms for a swimsuit. After all, with many of them being 18 or 19 years old, they are still very much kids themselves. Which is why soldier appreciation week and this day at the water park is so crucial to their morale. “Without the army, there will not be peace in Israel. But to have a strong army, we need days like this fun day to refresh us,” Yoan, a combat engineer said at last year’s fun day. “There’s a lot of happiness around these days,” Gur said proudly. “This is our chance to give them a big thanks for everything they do for us every day.”
To donate to the welfare of Israel’s soldiers, please click here.
Written in cooperation with Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers.