Should I Stay or Go? A Lone Soldier's Dilemma
By Deborah Lust Zaluda
Home is where your heart is ...Family is a group of people who care about one another...You are truly blessed when you have both
Just over 4 years ago my daughter got on an El Al flight from New York’s JFK airport, and along with over 200 others, became an Israeli citizen en route to Israel. She was just 18 years old. People asked: How do you feel? My response was and is: very proud. They asked: did she decide to join the army? My response was and is: she, like all Israelis her age, didn’t decide – it is her obligation as a citizen of Israel.
After a year in an Israeli pre-army preparatory program where she, together with 40 other Israelis, spent the year learning about Israel, Judaism, psychology, history, and herself, she was drafted.
As she had no family in Israel – only the chosen families that she had made during her first year in Israel – she was deemed a “lone soldier” - “Chayelet Bodedah”. The term means “lonely soldier” but in fact she was not lonely – just without family to return to each weekend while her fellow soldiers went home. She had to make her own home. Do her own laundry. Prepare her own Shabbat dinners. She was truly on her own. As a lone soldier, she had many resources at her disposal, through various organizations, though for the most part she admittedly did not take advantage of those resources.
Most of her time was spent with native Israelis and not other lone soldiers. This was her choice and her way of planting her roots and becoming a true Israeli. She did, and continues, to make her own way and establish her own relationships and create her own family.
It wasn’t until she entered her fourth year in the army that she, as a result of the job she is currently in, began to come into contact with many lone soldiers who come from all over the world.
She is currently an officer and is directly responsible for several soldiers, many of whom are lone soldiers. She has nearly two years left in the army (she recently finished her 3rd year and signed on for 2 more), but many of her soldiers will finish before her and many of them speak about what they will do after.
While these soldiers were in the army they were cared for, had other soldiers (like my daughter) looking after them, spent weekends with friends and chosen family, had medical care through the army, got financial assistance from the army, pretty much all aspects of their lives were set. But as they prepare to leave the army, the question is “what now”? Some have yet to begin their education, some have already completed their education. And many ask the question: should I stay or go “home”?
In coming to Israel, a choice was made to establish a new home. The hope was that they would establish roots. So why are they now asking “should I go home”?
Many, unlike my daughter, came to Israel and never truly assimilated into Israeli society, and the roots they hoped to plant never took hold. With some help, these kids can succeed. It wouldn’t take much.
Our project to support IDF Lone Soldiers: The Lone Soldier Leadership Experience
The Lone Soldier Leadership Experience, instituted through a partnership between Israel Forever Foundation and Puzzle Israel, was instituted to help these lone soldiers use the leadership skills they learned while in the army to continue to help their chosen country long after their service has ended. Through this project, these kids can truly allow their roots to take hold, expand their families, and to establish Israel as their true “home”.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting our campaign.
Deb is the U.S. Director Custom Private Tours and Midwest Program Coordinator for Puzzle Israel. Since first traveling to Israel, Deb learned a love of country and people she hadn't known before. After practicing law for many years, Deb started Journey Israel LLC, an Israel travel company, because she knew there was a better way to see Israel than "on the bus, off the bus" tours. Deb's passion for the people and culture and sights and sounds of Israel is contagious, and together with Puzzle Israel, she hopes to pass that passion along!