Reuniting families with lone soldiers

Friday, February 23, 2007 |  by Staff Writer
In honor of next week's Family Day, the Jewish Agency, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and the IDF itself are bringing parents of Israel's lone soldiers to Israel for a one-week visit to Israel.

Lone soldiers are those serving in the Israeli army who came to Israel as new immigrants or volunteers and whose families are still in their native countries. The isolation felt by some of these soldiers sparked the need for “Regila im Ima,” a program that brings the families of lone soldiers to Israel every year. The program traditionally has some 50 parents participating, but this year, 200 parents from the former Soviet Union, the US, Europe and Canada will be coming to visit their children currently serving in the army.

"It's a miracle for them," said Alex Selsky, a fellow from the Jewish Agency for Israel and the event's creator. "Sometimes these soldiers don't see their parents for years. The majority of these lone soldiers are part of Jewish Agency programs, and it's the responsibility of the Jewish Agency to help them out."

The project, which will include trips to some of Israel's famous attractions such as the Dead Sea, Masada and Jerusalem's Old City, was funded by the United Jewish Congress and Keren Hayesod. The program will end with a ceremony for Israel's lone soldiers in Jaffa held by Ze'ev Bielski, the director of the Jewish Agency, and Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Eitan, chairperson of the Friends of the IDF.

"I myself was a lone soldier," Selsky added. "So I know how important this is, and how good the soldiers feel to have family come and see them."

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