As most high school seniors in America are planning for life away from their families for the first time and college students are planning their spring break, a small, passionate group of their peers are embarking on a quite different, selfless path.  An increasing number of Jewish-Americans are opting out of the typical college experience in the United States, choosing instead to make Aliyah (move to the State of Israel) and serve in the Israel Defense Forces as lone soldiers; soldiers without family or friends in Israel.   For many of us, changing jobs or apartments is stressful and difficult, but imagine how much more so for these young adults making Aliyah.  They voluntarily and eagerly move thousands of miles away from their families, often not even speaking the native Hebrew language, all in an effort to volunteer three years of their lives in army fatigues, contributing to an ideal larger than themselves.  This phenomenon is unparalleled in the world. 
In Israel, military service is compulsory for men and women.  It is no wonder then that these immigrant lone soldiers have a profound effect on their Israeli counterparts.  Israeli soldiers often ask the lone soldiers, “Why did you move Israel?  Why are you giving up the best years of your life to serve in the army when it is not mandatory”?   Daniel Fogel, a lone soldier from Boca Raton, Florida sums up his response them, “Usually, I simply smile and say that I feel privileged to be part of the first Jewish army in 2000 years; this is the most important part of being a lone soldier.  We are here to remind the Israelis in our generation exactly what they serve for.  If I can impart even a bit of this perspective to the soldiers and citizens around me, then I believe I have already done a great service to my country”
The lone soldiers’ enthusiasm carries them far in integrating to their new lifestyle KKLand country, but, eventually, needs arise that require fulfillment; ones that a family normally tends to.  The non-profit organization, Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN), already famous for its level of efficiency and service that they provide to North American and British Jews before and after they make Aliyah, has created an equally impressive support system for their lone soldiers according to Vice President Danny Oberman’s motto; “It is the least we can do for these soldiers who have sacrificed so much”.  Their approach is holistic, addressing the financial, social and familial challenges faced by lone soldiers.
Nefesh B’Nefesh has created a special fund for soldiers and supports them from the moment they land, continuing throughout and after their active service.   The fund enables Nefesh B’Nefesh to provide enhanced financial assistance, which allows the lone soldiers to concentrate their first 6-12 months on learning Hebrew and integrating into Israeli society, no small tasks.  Several times per year NefeshB’Nefesh organizes care-packages that are hand-delivered by staff member to the soldiers on their kibbutzim and bases. In addition, NBN recognized the need for the soldiers to have an active social life, and coordinates a variety of events for soldiers on their days off, ranging from concerts and open-mic nights to Shabbat meals.

In 2010, Nefesh B’Nefesh forged a partnership with the Friends of the IDF to create and support social, educational, cultural and recreational programs and facilities for young Olim serving in the IDF. The two organizations are working together to help lone soldiers acclimate to their new lives in the army and in Israel, and provide them with the highest level of support.
More important than finances and events, Nefesh B’Nefesh assumes the role of family for its soldiers in Israel and as a bridge between the soldiers and their families in North America and the U.K.  The connections with soldiers’ families begin before they make Aliyah.  On a daily basis, NBN staff are answering and returning calls to soldiers at, literally, all hours of the night.  These are just a couple examples of the round-the-clock service provided to lone soldiers and their families.
Nefesh B’Nefesh has brought over 1,600 Oleh soldiers, with over 600 currently serving in active combat – a number that is increasing at rapid pace, with over 400 arriving each year. Although many of these soldiers have receives awards for bravery in combat, each lone soldier’s bravery is evidenced from the moment they make the decision to leave their families and serve in the IDF. Nefesh B’Nefesh’s assistance to the soldiers continues well after they are released from active duty.  Services provided after the army include a higher-education specialists, employment assistance, and many others. 
Nefesh B’Nefesh has created a paradigmatic shift in the experience of lone soldiers.  They have facilitated a process that is both transformative and sustainable.  The goal is not simply to help soldiers wade through the bureaucratic process; rather, it is to welcome the soldiers to a family that will care for their every need.  Highly-personal connections are created between soldiers, their families and NBN from the first phone call.  These bonds, like those of any family, are eternal.

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