New lone soldier home opens in Modiin for religious female lone soldiers

Second lone soldier home opened by the family of IDF soldier Sgt. Almog Shiloni killed in a terror attack in 2014

September 25, 2019 00:07
3 minute read.
New lone soldier home opens in Modiin for religious female lone soldiers

A bedroom in Beit Almog Shiloni, a new home for religious female lone soldiers that was opened in honor of Sgt. Almog Shiloni -a commander in the religious Netzach Yehuda battalion- who was killed in a terror attack at Tel Aviv’s HaHagana Railway Station in November 2014. (photo credit: DANIELLA HELLERSTEIN)

A new home for religious lone soldiers has opened its doors in Modi’in, with four women from around the world calling it home.

The home, Beit Almog Shiloni, was opened in honor of Sgt. Almog Shiloni, a commander in the religious Netzah Yehuda battalion who was killed in a terror attack at Tel Aviv’s Hagana Railway Station in November 2014.

“A lot of his soldiers came from haredi [ultra-Orthodox] backgrounds and had no place to go – and he would bring them to his parent’s home for Shabbat,” Daniella Hellerstein, a Beit Almog Shiloni board member, told The Jerusalem Post. “During the Shiva [traditional mourning period], stories would be pouring out that he was not only inviting them home for Shabbat, but that he was doing much more, like helping them out financially.”

There are some 3,000 haredi soldiers in the IDF and many are shunned and disowned by their families and communities for serving in the military.

Following his death, the family opened up their first home for haredi lone soldiers in Modi’in in 2015, providing five soldiers with not only a home, but guidance and counseling from role models.

With the success of the first home, the family decided to open up a second one for a population totally different from the first: female religious lone soldiers from abroad.

“It’s really two different populations, but these are two groups who are lacking in the support they are getting, and these homes can articulate their needs and meet them,” Hellerstein said. “These boys didn’t really have a future or direction or anyone to help them before they drafted. This is more than a home with a bed and food: It’s a support system which allows them to break the cycle and give both the men and women tools that they would need to be contributing members of society and have a future.”

In August, the girls moved into the three-bedroom home, which has been completely renovated. Two of them have their own bedroom while the other two share the master bedroom.

There are also host families who live in the neighborhood who will attend their ceremonies and invite them for Shabbat and holidays.

“These girls – from Panama, New York, South Africa and California – jumped on the idea of a religious lone soldier home for women,” Hellerstein said. “These are girls who came from Zionist homes who support them, but they are the typical lone soldier from abroad and they were struggling to find a place.”

The number of religious female soldiers joining the IDF has been growing over the years and, according to Hellerstein, religious female lone soldiers need more support than most.

“They have their own challenges and are not necessarily fully prepared,” she said. “They need support in addition to the logistical issues of living away from home. There are a lot of subgroups of lone soldiers, and they aren’t catered to all the time. This is just the beginning.”

Hellerstein told the Post that in addition to the two homes for lone soldiers, the city of Modi’in has given them a plot of land where they intend to build a large facility in the center of the city able to hold over 100 lone soldiers from different backgrounds, as well as a gym, classrooms and synagogues.

While there is still a significant amount of fund-raising needed, the opening of the home is “the dream of the Shiloni family,” according to Hellerstein.

“The family sees the homes as a direct continuation of what their son was doing,” she said. “They want to continue his mission.”

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