TEAM MEMBERS of The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin speak with soldiers nearing the end of their service at the center in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: LONE SOLDIER CENTER IN MEMORY OF MICHAEL LEVIN)
Eighty-five percent of lone soldiers hope to stay here following their IDF service, but this can be difficult for them in many ways. To combat the daily challenges they face, the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin is preparing to launch a post-army program to help them cultivate their potential to succeed in Israel.
The program, which is scheduled to start in the fall of this year, will provide one-on-one guidance, a university scholarship fund and a network of CEOs who can connect released soldiers with high-level internships and job placements. It aims to start with 200 participants in the first year.
Currently, nearly half of lone soldiers leave the country, according to the Lone Soldier Center.
“These idealistic young men and women left their countries of origin, family and friends, learned a new language, and overcame a multitude of challenges in order to follow their dream of serving the State of Israel,” the center said in a statement. “But once their IDF service comes to an end and their mission is complete, lone soldiers often find themselves lost and alone.
Ari, a former elite combat lone soldier from Nebraska, said that when any soldier finishes their service, “their path forward is unclear.”
“This is more so the case with lone soldiers, since they lack the support of families or communities to help and guide them as they consider future options,” he explained.
“Sometimes, these challenges force lone soldiers to leave Israel and return to their respective countries of origin,” he said.“This comes at a great detriment to the State of Israel, as it loses some of its most passionate and talented personas. This is especially sad considering how easily these challenges could be alleviated by creating a stronger network of support for post-service lone soldiers.”
Tova Esserman, a former lone soldier and the coordinator of the program, said the post-army program was created to help lone soldiers have a smoother “landing” when they get out of the army.
“As one finishes this major chapter of one’s life, getting out of the army is just as scary, if not scarier, than when the individual decided to draft,” she said. “The program is geared toward guiding our newly released lone soldiers in the direction they are interested in going.”
Esserman emphasized that one of the main focuses “will be to open doors for those who have BAs [bachelor of arts degrees] and are ready to start their careers in Israel.
“[It’s about] creating networking events with various companies and connecting individuals to experts in the field they are interested in studying,” she said.
Mike Domb, a former lone soldier, tank commander and co-founder of the program, said, “The program helps released soldiers by enabling them to stay in Israel while simultaneously helping Israel reap the economic benefits of retaining thousands of motivated, capable young men and women who are dedicated to serving the country and helping it flourish.”
On Tuesday, hundreds will attend a fund-raising event in Toronto, Canada, to support the Lone Soldier Center’s post-army program. The event, called “Bonding With Lone Soldiers,” is being co-hosted by the Lone Soldier Center and Israel Bonds. It will feature as keynote speaker, world-renowned Israel-supporter and the former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp.
Kemp, a staunch supporter of the IDF and Israel, told the Canadian Jewish News prior to the event that lone soldiers are “very brave people,” who put their lives on the line for Israel and are continuing a unique tradition.