November 6, 2007 / 25 Cheshvan 5768
Like many new immigrants, Felix Palacci arrived in Israel without friends or immediate family. Fortunately, he joined the Jewish Agency’s Garin Tzabar program, which gave him a place to call home and the chance to make new friends.
From Switzerland to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Felix Palacci, 21, began a new chapter in his life when he made aliyah and entered the army’s prestigious paratroopers unit just last year. Growing up, Felix was very involved with the Jewish youth movement Bnei Akiva and would come to Israel nearly every summer to visit his father’s family. “I wanted to live in Israel because I love this country,” he says. “I came with the intention of going into the army because it’s not enough just to enjoy the benefits; you also have to give something back.”
Felix is part of Garin Tzabar, a program of the Israel Scouts Movement that is supported by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Absorption. The program facilitates the immigration, absorption and IDF service of young adults, ages 18-24, from around the world. Felix and about 25 other Garin participants were placed at Kibbutz Kfar Hanasi, an agricultural kibbutz near the northern city of Kiryat Shmonah, where they lived, explored the country and studied in advanced ulpan before entering the army as a group. The kibbutz will remain their home away from home for the duration of their service. “When I have free weekends, I always go back to the kibbutz because all of my friends are there and the people there are like a surrogate family to me,” says Felix.
Although he has extended family in Israel, Felix is a lone soldier – one of the thousands of exceptional young people who have left family and friends behind in their native countries to move to Israel and bravely serve in the IDF. “I came to Israel on my own, but I didn’t want to feel alone,” says Felix. “I knew I had to make friends and that’s part of what Garin Tzabar helped me do.”
The Jewish Agency’s Fund for Lone Immigrant Soldiers provides those like Felix with essential support including pre-paid calling cards to call home each month, vouchers to purchase appliances, and funding to meet special needs. The Fund also runs a seminar for lone soldiers before their discharge that helps prepare them for the transition back to civilian life. Made possible through the generosity of Federations across North America, the communities of Keren Hayesod–UIA and donors in Israel and around the world, the Fund enables lone soldiers to maintain a dignified standard of living throughout their service. To support the Jewish Agency’s Fund for Lone Immigrant Soldiers, click here.