Michael Levin, a young man from Philadelphia, moved to Israel to serve as a volunteer in the IDF. He was killed in southern Lebanon. A center for soldiers without families was established three years ago, dedicated to his memory.
The number of soldiers without family connections in Israel is 5760 nationally, which includes 2800 from abroad. They come from Russia, South America, Germany, France, and Holland. They are among those to which the law of return applies.
Once a month, the center organizes and funds a dinner at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, and the International Synagogue in Tel Aviv. Also on Hanukkah, Purim, Sukkot, the center hosts community events and on Independence Day, all gather together for a barbeque.
In Tel Aviv, the organization has opened a club for soldiers with no family connections. This is not only a meeting place, but it also serves practical purposes, as it is equipped with washers and dryers.
In addition to five office workers spread throughout the country, there are also 240 volunteers, who meet with the soldiers one on one. This guidance helps them deal with bureaucratic, psychological or other problems.
CEO Jacky Oud sees that a very important part of his mission is to take care of the soldiers after the end of military service. This includes assisting them towards continuing their education and vocational training or starting a business. Oud is in direct and constant contact with managing authority for retired soldiers and commanders.
Jacky Oud told us of a young Haredi man from Mea Shearim. Not one of his family members wanted to come to his swearing-in ceremony, and Oud himself accompanied him to this important event.
There was also a young man who dreamed of being accepted to the Bezalel Academy of Art. With the help of donations from abroad, he was able to pay the tuition and was accepted by the academy.
For half a year the center for soldiers without family has also provided a night school for soldiers to receive their High School equivalency to be granted college entrance. They take courses in math, English, Hebrew, Tanach (Bible Studies) and geography.
Jacky Oud personally meets with all the soldiers, and follows up with them after their completion of military service, helping them with their home and job search.
Interview by Esti Eliraz.
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