A second home

A generous Israeli-American couple opened their hearts and wallets to create affordable housing for soldiers in need.

Beit Richman (photo credit: courtesy)
Beit Richman
(photo credit: courtesy)
Last summer, an Israeli-American couple opened a free residence for lone soldiers in Kfar Yavetz, a religious moshav in the Sharon.
Bat-Sheva Richman explains that the idea for Beit Richman Lahayal (Richman Home for Soldiers) came to her in November 2009. She was watching a TV report about the lack of affordable, appropriate accommodation for soldiers from abroad or from estranged haredi families.
She and her husband, Stan, decided to turn a villa they owned on Kfar Yavetz into a home base for Shabbat-observant male soldiers in keeping with the atmosphere of the moshav.
It took a few months to furnish and decorate the residence and to iron out details with IDF and moshav officials. The first three residents moved in last July, and now 10 of the 12 spots in the house are occupied.
“When I’m determined to do something, I find a way,” says Bat-Sheva Richman, 58, who grew up as one of eight sisters in Rosh Ha’ayin and returned here 20 years ago with Stan, a native of Sharon, Massachusetts. Not having done military service herself, she was seeking an alternative way to give back her country now that her four children are grown.
Though many foreign lone soldiers are billeted on kibbutzim and others find roommates or “adoptive” families, Richman discovered that “some of them aren’t happy, and it’s hard for them to afford food and utilities.” She took in “C” as soon as she had a mattress for him to sleep on. Like three of the other men, C is a fighter in the Netzah Yehuda battalion for haredi men. His parents and neighbors are disapproving of his choice to join the army, so he spent 49 straight days on base until the battalion’s social service officer directed him to Beit Richman.
Half the current residents are lone soldiers from English-speaking countries, some of them referred through Nefesh B’Nefesh. Two “wonderful, sweet” Australians are among the newest residents, says Richman. “They love having a group of soldiers to eat, laugh and sing with on Shabbat,” she says.
Eti Navon, one of Richman’s sisters, had formerly managed a children’s residence and now oversees day-to-day operations. When the soldiers arrive on Thursday night, they know they will wake up the next morning to find Navon cooking and baking, ready for a chat.
“I contact each one every week to see how they are doing and to find out if they’re coming for Shabbat,” says Navon. “I come on Friday to sit and talk with them over coffee and cake, sometimes with my husband, and I arrange everything for Shabbat for them.”
The Richmans often host lone soldiers for holiday meals and parties in their Jerusalem home, too. Six Beit Richman residents joined them recently for the Purim meal.
They now are seeking donors to help them open additional sites for nonreligious lone male soldiers and for female lone soldiers.