Nevut: Helping lone IDF veterans navigate the return to civilian life

Nevut, which means navigate in Hebrew, also provides veterans with personal development and one-on-one personal guidance, as well as therapy sessions – group, lone or couples.

Ari Abramowitz (Left) together with lone soldier veterans Naftoli and Jason packing food for the holidays for US Troops stationed abroad together with KosherTroops.com (photo credit: RABBI ARI ABRAMOWITZ)
Ari Abramowitz (Left) together with lone soldier veterans Naftoli and Jason packing food for the holidays for US Troops stationed abroad together with KosherTroops.com
(photo credit: RABBI ARI ABRAMOWITZ)
For the thousands of Diaspora Jews who join the Israeli Defense Forces as lone soldiers, hundreds return to their home country after they are discharged from the military.
After three years of serving the State of Israel, many of these veteran lone soldiers feel lost and are unable to navigate their way back into civilian life.
Three years ago, Rabbi Ari Abramowitz, who served in the IDF’s Nahal Yehuda battalion, saw the need to smooth the transition for these veteran lone soldiers and provide them with a community where they can gather and share experiences, as well as participate in leadership gatherings and more.
Nevut, which means navigate in Hebrew, also provides veterans with personal development and one-on-one personal guidance, as well as therapy sessions – group, lone or couples.
“Our goal is to make sure that every veteran lone soldier succeeds, in every way,” Abramowitz told The Jerusalem Post.
While the organization is still small – with about 450 members in chapters spread over the United States, Canada and England – according to Abramowitz, the main focus is more on the quality of service provided to the veterans than the number of members.
“We grow every day, but I want to focus on quality,” he said, explaining that the main pillars of the organization are career, empowerment and community.
“Even if lone soldiers return to the States, they are lone soldier veterans who share a common bond and the same exact experience. [That's] the beauty, because we have the same experience,” he said.
Lone Soldier Veterans Skiing Shabbaton - Winter Retreat(Photo Credit: Rabbi Ari Abramowitz)Lone Soldier Veterans Skiing Shabbaton - Winter Retreat(Photo Credit: Rabbi Ari Abramowitz)
There are close to 7,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF at any given time, with close to half being new immigrants and the others being Israelis who are either orphans or have no family support.
During their time in the military, these lone soldiers are entitled to support from the Defense Ministry and various organizations. Once they are discharged, they are provided with a one-time payment and support to complete their matriculation and psychometric exams.
But with no help or guidance through Israel’s bureaucracy, daunting even for those born in Israel, they face challenges with little or no assistance. And that has led to a significant number leaving Israel once they are done with their service.
According to a recent report by the Knesset’s Research and Information Center, half of the lone soldiers left Israel immediately after completing their military service.  And of the half that stayed, a third left shortly after.
Many veterans that come back to their home country don’t return to a family environment and are just as alone as they were in Israel after finishing their service.
“They won’t return home after coming back to the States, especially those who came from broken homes,” Abramowitz said.
Nevut provides subsidized therapy sessions and weekend retreats at least four times a year to veteran lone soldiers and their spouses as well as therapists – allowing the partner, as well as family members, to understand what their husbands have gone through or are going through.
“I also speak to religious parents who don’t see their kids as ‘good kids’ after they joined the IDF and didn’t continue with their Yeshiva studies. I speak to them to make them understand that just because they took a different route they are still good kids.”
The chapter heads of the organization check in with their members every month, and recently opened up WhatsApp groups to contact the veterans who might need help or just want someone to speak to about their shared experience in the IDF.
“They won’t say anything, but they need this,” Abramowitz said. “There are some veterans who have PTSD but their spouses don’t know about it, or that they could talk to therapists themselves. A lot of the time these guys are afraid to call – they are hiding their emotions – so I make sure that every day I reach out to them.”
According to him, these sessions have helped countless members, including those on the brink of suicide.
“One veteran said to us ‘what’s the point of living?’ But he was able to get help through Nevut – and six months later he reached out to me and told me that ‘the meeting saved my life,’” Abramowitz said.
“This organization has had a big impact on so many lone soldiers.”
Learning how to use your IDF experience for your career with Seth Farbman Co-Founder at VstockTransfer.com (Photo Credit: Rabbi Ari Abramowitz)Learning how to use your IDF experience for your career with Seth Farbman Co-Founder at VstockTransfer.com (Photo Credit: Rabbi Ari Abramowitz)
In addition to the aspect of emotional growth and community, Nevut also provides scholarships for veterans who have a clear idea about their future career path – like EMTs, graphic designers, mechanics or firefighters. While the scholarships are not large, all of the fundraising for Nevut is done by Abramowitz “to help our veterans move forward” with their careers.
The community aspect of Nevut provides veterans with a unit and a band of brothers that they can continue to share experiences with, Abramowitz told the Post, stressing that the main pillar of the organization is to always be there for the veterans.
“Our community allows them to connect and allows us to find out the deeper story of what’s going on with them,” he said. “It’s an incredible experience to see the growth of lone soldiers, who always know they can reach out to us.”