Around 5,000 IDF lone soldiers gathered on Thursday at the Shefayim Water Park - Israel’s largest water park, just outside of Tel Aviv, for a “Yom Kef,” or Fun Day.
The annual Fun Day is a chance for lone soldiers to take a break from the stress and pressures of military life, cool off in the pool and avoid talking to soldiers they barely know from basic training.
The park, which to American standards seems small, packed in an all-day smorgasbord of barbecue and desserts, plus games and activities including entertainment by Israeli DJ Eran Barnea.
The annual event was hosted by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) in partnership with the IDF and Yachad – the joint organization of AWIS (Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers) and The Libi Fund, the official body for donations which benefit the soldiers of the IDF.
There are some 6,116 lone soldiers from 80 countries serving in the IDF today: Around 810 come from the United States, 546 from Ukraine, 459 from Russia and 412 from France. Some 66% of lone soldiers are men and 34% are women; 55% of lone soldiers serve in combat or combat-support roles.
FIDF says that it supports lone soldiers serving in the IDF through the lone soldiers program, which supports them financially, socially, and emotionally during and after their challenging military service. FIDF also sponsors flights for them to visit their families and friends in their countries of origin.