What was supposed to be a class for Jewish mothers visiting Israel transformed into an emotional reunion for 30 mothers of lone soldiers in Jerusalem this week.
These mothers were part of the Jewish women’s movement Momentum’s “Year-Long Journey,” which kicks off with an immersive eight-day trip to Israel. On the fourth day of their trip, they attended what they thought would be an educational class at Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Aliyah Campus in Jerusalem. Instead, they were surprised by the arrival of their children who are serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The mothers arrived in Israel last Tuesday from around the world, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They came to be a part of a much larger delegation of 300 women who came to Israel to help realize Momentum’s mission of helping women connect to their Jewish values and to the State of Israel, in partnership with the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and combating antisemitism.
The emotional reunion of the mothers with their children in uniform was a collaborative effort between Momentum and the FIDF - Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers program. Prior to meeting with their children, the group was hosted at the Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah campus, where they heard from Momentum’s Founding Director, Lori Palatnik, a mother to a former lone soldier herself.
Heather Paskin from Boca Raton, Florida, was one mother on the program who was brought to tears when her daughter, Ayelet, who made Aliyah with Garin Tzabar, surprised her. Heather said, “She left in December, and we only saw each other briefly in April, so being able to be together now is so emotional. The minute I saw her walk through those doors, it was the most powerful feeling. I’m so proud of her, and I’m grateful to Nefesh B’Nefesh and Momentum for facilitating such a beautiful moment for mothers and soldiers.”
“It is truly remarkable and inspiring to see these young men and women who are dedicating years of their lives to the State of Israel and the Jewish nation,” said Director of the FIDF- Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program, Noya Govrin. “It has been incredibly emotional seeing their joyful reunions with their mothers and seeing up close their endless love and support for their courageous and Zionistic children.”
The FIDF-Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program cares for some 3,500 Olim (immigrants) from around the world who are currently in active IDF service. The program, with the full support of the IDF, offers guidance, support, and holistic care for all lone soldiers during each stage of their service, after their release from the army, and during the adjustment stages back to civilian life.
“Although all of these brave men and women are over 18, every parent knows your job is never quite over, which is why it’s so challenging to see our lone soldiers defend a country when they’re so far away from the people that love them the most,” Palatnik said. “As a mother of a lone soldier myself, I’m so proud that Momentum, in collaboration with Nefesh B’Nefesh and the FIDF, successfully facilitated this reunion and provided an opportunity for these mothers to have quality time with their children who’ve given so much to the State of Israel.”
The mothers were provided with Momentum’s itinerary, curated with the aim of helping them connect to Israel. The schedule also incorporated activities which offered strength and support to these women going through the unique experiences of being mothers of lone soldiers, including a seminar led by psychologists Lior Yonai and Tammy Goren on building resilience for themselves and their children in active service, as well as a visit to the IDF border defense base.