How has the pandemic affected Israel’s lone soldiers?
Each year hundreds of idealistic young people from all over the world choose to leave their families and homes and start a new life in Israel. For these new Olim, this is a life-altering decision. Most don’t speak Hebrew and aren’t familiar with the local culture, nor do they have a support system in Israel. In recent months the new Olim have also had to deal with the COVID-19 crisis which has intensified their sense of loneliness and uncertainty.
Through the Wings program, the Spirit of Israel has partnered with the Jewish Agency and the Merage Foundation in supporting lone soldiers, in order to help them get through this complex period.
The Wings program supports 3,500 young lone immigrants each year before their army service – as they acclimate to life in Israel and prepare for the IDF, during their service as lone soldiers, and after it.
The program provides guidance, accompaniment, emergency support and preparation for post-army life army including occupational assessment, financial guidance and the warm framework of the Wings alumni forum.
How has the pandemic affected these young adults?
The COVID-19 crisis has deepened the sense of uncertainty new young immigrants experience, but in a completely unfamiliar way. Far from their families during a global health and economic crisis, the situation has had a negative impact on their feelings of personal competency.
Many of Wings’ discharged soldiers are university students who work to earn a living, mostly at temporary jobs in restaurants and security. Health and safety regulations brought about the closure of their workplaces, thousands were laid off and many are experiencing severe financial hardships – they have little money to pay rent, taxes, for living expenses or even food.
During the crisis, Wings program staff members have dealt with hundreds of requests for aid from program participants in all stages – before, during and after their IDF service – for a variety of purposes: financial assistance, emotional difficulties and stress, bureaucratic issues and more.
Wings, in partnership with the Spirit of Israel, raised emergency aid in the amount of $500 for each new immigrant. So far we have distributed more than 1,000 aid packages and we are continuing to raise funds to assist additional young people.
We are also providing emotional support and assistance for those in quarantine as well as online personal guidance and group meetings to create a sense of togetherness. We will continue to support new lone immigrants to help them get through this challenging time.