East Valley youth write letters to lone soldiers

Michael Cohen

The Lone Soldier Project at Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation (SLJC) supports the needs of Lone Soldiers while they serve on active duty in the Israel Defense Forces. Lone Soldiers are defined as member of the IDF who do not have family to support them living in Israel while they are on active.

Approximately 60% of the 6500 Lone Soldiers in the IDF are volunteers from all over the world. Usually, they are courageous and dedicated young adults who leave the comfort and safety of their homes to join with Israelis in the defense of Israel. Around 25% of them are from the United States with more than half of them serving in combat or combat support roles.

Training and duty assignments require intense physical and mental energy with the comradery and sense of mission sustaining them. Because Israel is such a small country, most Israelis go home to their families when off duty, being nurtured and having all their personal needs met.

As an alternative to going home, Lone Soldier Centers have been created as places for Lone Soldiers to enjoy the company of other Lone Soldiers, celebrate the Sabbath and other holidays, do their laundry, get advice and guidance and to stay during off duty times. Chayal el Chayal (Soldier to Soldier) in Jerusalem is one such facility and is the Israeli partner for the local Lone Soldier Project.

The SLJC project sends personal care packages, knitted winter hats and letters to Lone Soldiers to acknowledge and show appreciation for the important role they play in defense of the Jewish homeland. Lone Soldiers delight at receiving letters of encouragement and holiday greeting from outside of Israel. The letters validate the important role they work so hard to fulfill. Appreciation for their efforts are energizing for them to continue to meet the daily challenge before them.

In the last few months, we have visited Camp Rimon at the East Valley Jewish Community Center and the Desert Jewish Academy to talk about Lone Soldier and ask the children to write letters to them. After hearing about the courage and commitment of Lone Soldiers, the students expressed genuine empathy and appreciation for them. Phrases like, “please stay safe,” “don’t get hurt” and “thank you for keeping Israel safe,” were expressed often. Seventy-five letters from these students have been sent to Israel.

For more information about the Lone Soldier Project, to have a presentation to your organization or join our effort, contact us at [email protected] v