What is the true meaning of home? For 18-year-old Idan, this word has meant many things throughout his life. After his parents’ divorce and a series of familial difficulties, he was processed through the Israeli Welfare Ministry, facing many moves between permanent and temporary housing. He found himself living alone as a minor after being subject to many family struggles. On the eve of one of the Jewish holy days, he was invited by a local family to join their holiday meal, and from that evening forward, Idan proceeded to live under the Levy family’s care for the 3 years that followed. However, now that he has graduated from high school, he will follow his peers in his mandatory army service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He will serve in the navy, and live during the week on a closed base.
Because Idan was never officially adopted by his foster family and has now reached the legal age of emancipation from the foster-care system, he is considered a “lone soldier”. This status is usually reserved for new-immigrant international Jews who go through the ‘Aliyah’ or immigration process and serve in the IDF while their families remain in their country of origin, however, there are special cases such as Idan’s where this classification is granted to native-born Israelis as well. Lone soldiers are allotted certain benefits such as a living stipend, time off for family visits, and other supports to try to mitigate the difficulty of completing their service without family support. However, despite these strides to offer greater assistance to lone soldiers, often the struggles they face are still too steep, and many are forced to return to their home country, slip into depression, or in some cases have even been known to take their own lives. There is a great need for this population to find a place they can truly call “home” during their service, and CBN Israel felt called to fill this void. CBN recently rented a large home in the greater-Jerusalem area, to support lone soldiers of different life circumstances. The home will eventually house up to 10 soldiers and 2 house-parents and will give highly subsidized rates for rent, food, bills, and other expenses. The home will also be a space for structured programming to offer the soldiers a sense of community to come home to.
Idan said that he prayed to God to prosper him in the next season of his life, as he knew his emancipation date from the foster system was drawing near. When asked about his next step after high school, he would tell people that he was believing for a home for lone soldiers like himself, where he could find community and a permanent home during his service. He even thought of starting one by himself. Therefore, when Idan heard that this was exactly what CBN Israel was trying to provide, he says that he was very eager to join the project, and help build it from the ground up. “I was so happy and I knew that I was destined to go there”, he said in the early stages, even before a home had been rented, or any other soldiers had signed on to live there. When asked about why this type of program is an important option for lone soldiers, Idan stated, “People want to feel safe and understood, to seek out support from people with common challenges, even though they come from all different backgrounds. A home for lone soldiers can easily become a real family for those without”. He also added that there is a need to honor those who travel across the world, and potentially risk their lives to serve Israel – “I believe that such projects [as this one] need to operate in a wider range of areas, to help as many lone soldiers as possible. At the end of the day, lone soldiers do not normally come home to warm hugs, a listening ear, or people to reaffirm them in their faith. They also must face the struggles of adulthood alone in terms of the financial burden and home responsibilities that their families would otherwise support them in”. It is with the support of foundational participants like Idan that the home for lone soldiers is now up and running!
Idan also recently returned from a pre-army trip to an orphanage in Kenya, where he says he “took 40 children into his heart as new brothers and family”, and says he is eager to return to these children after his army service. Idan’s commitment to helping build a sense of “home” for so many people is what makes him such an inspiring presence in this program. Whether it is for soldiers who traveled across the world to serve Israel, or the children Idan hopes to cross the world for after his service, “home” is a feeling that Idan has learned to take with him, and it is something CBN hopes to provide for many more needy soldiers in the future. If you are invested in stories, such as Idan’s, and other residents of CBN’s lone soldier home, please consider partnering with us today to ensure the continuation of this project for inspiring young people. From everyone at CBN and the lone soldiers we support, we say, “thank you”!
[Name(s) have been changed for privacy purposes]