December 30, 2009
by HAVIV RETTIG GUR
Lone soldiers attend the groundbreaking ceremony in Ra'anana
on Wednesday for Benji's House, which will provide a home for
servicemen who have no family here to support them
Photo: Ben Hartman
A large majority of lone soldiers from overseas don't know how to function in the Israeli economy and need help integrating into Israeli society once they leave the army, a Jewish Agency survey of such soldiers has found.
Some 2,500 serving IDF soldiers come from overseas and do not have parents living in the country. Each year, about 700 of these complete their military service and enter Israeli civilian life, with 75 percent saying they plan to remain Israeli.
But according to a Jewish Agency survey of 113 soon-to-be-released lone soldiers, the vast majority are not equipped for Israeli civilian life.
The survey asked the soldiers what would contribute to their successful integration. A majority pointed to social causes, such as Israeli society's "supportive attitude" (75%), professional assistance from organized groups (79%), establishing a family in the country (67%) and appropriate education and employment (70%).
A much lower number said that financial difficulties (47%) or the language barrier (22%) would be an obstacle to integration.
For the soldiers themselves, "the feeling of belonging to Israeli society is much more important for integration than absorption obstacles," summarized the agency statement publicizing the survey's results on Tuesday.
The survey comes ahead of a Wednesday conference in Tel Aviv marking five years of operation for the Knafayim ("Wings") program, a joint initiative of the Jewish Agency and the Mirage Foundation, which seeks to resolve many of the problems faced by lone soldiers. These problems often center around ignorance of Israeli economic and social systems and habits.
In the framework of Knafayim, participants learn to write checks, read rental contracts, and the like.
According to the survey, fully 94% of the soldiers reported that they had not known how to do such things before the course.