Construction began last week in Ra'anana on new lone soldier housing which will provide rooms for 93 lone combat soldiers serving in the IDF.
The new home is an expansion of the HaBayit Shel Benji initiative of the Benji Hillman Foundation. The late Maj. Hillman was a UK native who, after making aliyah and joining the IDF, became company commander of the Golani Brigade’s prestigious Egoz commando unit. He was killed in 2006 in the village of Moran a-Ras at the beginning of the Second Lebanon War.
"In an effort to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for a real home for lone soldiers," said the foundation in a recent announcement, "we have decided to build a second Home."
Maj. Hillman's loved ones set up the foundation, dedicated to helping lone soldiers, in his honor in August 2006. The first "HaBayit Shel Benji" home in Ra'anana was opened in 2013 and currently houses 87 lone combat soldiers. The new one is projected to be able to house 93 combat soldiers and will be completed in March 2024.
The second house is being built on a lot adjacent to the first.
"The goal of the Benji Hillman Foundation...is for every single soldier who lives in Benji's house will feel that he is in his real home. Therefore, in HaBayit Shel Benji the lone soldiers get a private room, three meals a day, food to their heart's content between meals, laundry services, and [more]. A lone soldier in HaBayit Shel Benji is never lonely because [he has] the supportive...company of soldiers There are soldiers from all over the world alongside a dedicated and warmhearted team that takes care of all the material and emotional needs of the soldiers."
Additional services provided by the Benji Hillman Foundation
HaBayit Shel Benji also serves as a guidance center that provides educational and vocational help to more than 500 discharged lone soldiers every year.
“It’s guidance into civilian life,” Saul Rurka, Hillman’s first cousin and founder of the home told The Jerusalem Post in 2018. The program, which helps newly released lone soldiers find a job or career, also helps find and furnish a post-army place to live, and helps veterans manage a budget, get scholarships for higher education and navigate the country’s bureaucracy.
“Going back since we started the house, the number of people who have gone through guidance and stayed are around 90%,” he said, explaining many lone soldiers leave Israel after being discharged.
“It’s very clear that lone soldiers are not happy with the existing solutions,” Rurka said.“This is not a good thing. We are in 2018 now. We started in 2006, and I thought that once we opened that people would see that this is what lone soldiers want and they would start building similar models,” he said.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.