The IDF’s Human Resources Directorate has established a new department to look after the thousands of lone soldiers, about half of whom immigrate to Israel without their families.

According to the IDF, there are about 5,000 lone soldiers in the military, and about half are in combat units.

Some 46 percent have family in Israel but are alienated from them and therefore receive lone-soldier status in the IDF.

The “Lone Soldiers Department” was set up in September and is stationed at the Tel Hashomer Base near Tel Aviv. The department has established ties with various civilian organizations that promote aliya such as Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency and works together with other organizations set up to assist lone soldiers such as the Lone Soldier Center in Jerusalem established in memory of Michael Levin from Philadelphia who was killed during the Second Lebanon War.

The decision to establish the department was made after the IDF Behavioral Science Department conducted a survey last year among the 5,000 lone soldiers.

“The soldiers wanted more support,” Maj. Lital Rotem, the head of the new department, said on Thursday. “Our goal is to create the best support system possible so lone soldiers can complete their military service successfully.”

Since establishing the department, Rotem has been busy meeting lone soldiers, their commanders and representatives of various organizations in an effort to create programs that can help the soldiers. One example was the recent launching of a series of classes for lone soldiers to teach them how to manage a budget while in the military.

“Many of the soldiers receive stipends from the IDF but do not always know how to manage their expenses,” Rotem said.

Another new initiative was the opening last February of a hotline, manned 24 hours a day, for lone soldiers in need of help either within the military or when on leave. The hotline can also be used by civilians who want to help lone soldiers by donating supplies or inviting soldiers to their homes over the weekend. The number is (03) 737-5200.

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