Israel's first lady, Sara Netanyahu, with lone soldiers from the Garin Tzabar program.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
When people hear that you’re a lone soldier, the shocked reaction is almost always accompanied with the classic string of praises. You know what I’m talking about: the “you’re so brave!” “I could never just leave my family like that!” or “it must be soooo hard!” But what they don’t know, and you probably won’t tell them (because they don’t really want to hear it), is how good the lone soldier life really is. Lone soldier life = thug life. Allow me to explain.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to belittle the whole “you left your family, friends and everything you once knew to join a foreign army for idealistic reasons” – but I would like to point out that we don’t have it so bad. From the day you arrive at the recruitment office and put on those army greens, you are IDF property. This means that it’s in the army’s best interest to put a roof over your head, feed you, clothe you and meet all of your basic needs. The IDF is kind of like a womb. You have everything you need in a safe little place, until you’re pushed out of your comfort zone and the world gives you a nice slap on the tush. Say bye-bye to free living accommodations, money for groceries, gift cards on holidays, a steady salary straight to your bank account every month, financial help and the many other millions of benefits you get as a lone soldier.
But don’t worry, the thug life doesn’t end when you “peace out” of the army. Israel knows how hard it is for a lone soldier to go from the comforting arms of the IDF into hardcore Israeli civilian life.
The Holy Land’s got your back. Along with the basic benefits that every discharged soldier in Israel gets ($$$), there are many added benefits for lone soldiers.
First of all, before you even cut your IDF ID and the whole shebang, as a lone soldier it is your right to attend a one-week course that coaches you through the transition to civilian life. This course explains things you never had to worry about because the army was taking care of them for you. Health care, property taxes, education, welfare – these are all basic things that every citizen should have some knowledge about. Especially if they are immigrants who moved to said country alone (cough, cough).
During this course you also learn about all of your rights as a discharged lone soldier. Some of which include: a scholarship of NIS 1,000-NIS 1,500 to complete your high school degree (GED); a one-time loan for living, studies, getting married, medical care, opening up a business or special circumstances; scholarships to help pay for a course to help prepare for psychometric tests; waived fees for said tests as well as for university applications; and many different scholarship options to help pay for your BA or MA.
There are also many nonprofit organizations created specifically to help discharged lone soldiers. The Wings Program, for example, is committed to helping discharged lone soldiers find suitable careers.
They offer professional guidance with a personal adviser who you can meet with for up to two years following your release. If a lone soldier is looking into what academic studies or career to pursue, they offer free diagnostic testing. They offer help with resume building, financial coaching and have a Big Brother/Big Sister organization for mentoring.
There is also the option for lone soldiers to be in contact with volunteers from the Israel Rotary Club for anything from discounts on furniture to internships.
Another foundation, the HESEG Foundation, provides the opportunity to apply for a full academic scholarship as well as paid living expenses.
Basically, Israel is doing everything in its power to help you fulfill your dreams and succeed in everything and anything you pursue after the army. So don’t fear this new weird phase of being a citizen and actually making adult decisions for yourself.
Embrace this new stage – because when you chose to volunteer for the IDF, you chose the thug life for life.The author, originally from Los Angeles, graduated YULA Girls High School in 2013 and then came to Israel to study at Migdal Oz. After a seminary year, she joined the IDF as a weapons instructor. She was recently discharged from the IDF and began studying social work at Bar Ilan University.
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