Helping Lone Soldiers Spread Their Wings | The Jewish Agency

Helping Lone Soldiers Spread Their Wings

Helping Lone Soldiers Spread Their Wings
David Merage left Iran on his own at the age of 15. Today, the billionaire philanthropist helps thousands of lone soldiers in Israel through Wings.

David Merage, now Chairman and CEO of Consolidated Investment Group
Photo from Consolidated Investment Group

David was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Tehran in 1949. As a teen, he left behind his family and friends to attend high school in London. His transition to life there, having to adjust to a new culture and language, on his own, would make quite an impression on him.

Despite his time abroad, David never forgot his roots and wanted to give back, which led to him establishing his charitable Merage Foundation. He connected with The Jewish Agency when he was looking for a partner that had access to the Persian community in Israel and Iran.

“We wanted to help Jews in Iran, who were not really free to leave and make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel). Also, many of the families that came to Israel experienced difficulties with absorption into Israel, and there were also many families that made Aliyah gradually,” said David on his efforts to help the immigrant Persian community in Israel as well as those back home. “I found the partner I was looking for in The Jewish Agency and for many years, we had many joint projects, and helped thousands of Jews.”

When I saw the lone soldiers, they immediately brought up my childhood memories of immigrating alone to a new country. It was really moving for me.

The Jewish Agency for Israel's Wings program provides emotional, financial, and other services to help embrace lone soldiers whose families live abroad and who bravely elect to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.

After the success with the olim (immigrants) from Iran, David wanted to expand his partnership with The Jewish Agency. Hearing about lone soldiers, people who make Aliyah without family in Israel and opt to join the army, David immediately felt a connection and urge to do something.

“When I saw the lone soldiers, they immediately brought up my childhood memories of immigrating alone to a new country. It was really moving for me – the commitment of these young people, who could lose their lives just because of their dream to make Aliyah,” shared David.

This led David to support The Jewish Agency’s Wings program, which helps thousands of Jews enlist in the IDF each year, and continues to assist them years after their army service. Today, Wings supports some 3,500 young olim annually, from the moment they arrive in Israel.

Before their enlistment and during their service, Wings provides monetary assistance to lone soldiers, legal support for their rights as soldiers, family support, personal guidance and training workshops. After their release, Wings helps olim integrate into Israeli society by supporting and preparing them for civilian life, from help writing a resume to financial training and more.

“I have indescribable respect for these lone soldiers,” said David. “They have done much more than what I did or thought I needed to do.”