To the fifty-nine future lone soldiers that arrived in Israel,

I want to thank each and every one of you for the service that you’re about to embark upon. It’s going to be one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences that you will go through in your life. I know this because two years ago, I too boarded the Nefesh b’Nefesh charter flight to Israel.

Soon after landing, you’ll be shocked by the cultural differences that you’ll experience. You’ll want to scream at the top of your lungs when your new fellow countrymen elbow and push in order to be first-in-line at the bank. You’ll need to haggle with cab drivers that think that they can make a few more shekels out of you because of your foreign accent. You may even get your feelings hurt when you experience the Israeli mentality of “telling it like it is” for the first time.

We as new immigrants forget to look past the tough outer skin of the Israeli Sabre and into their sweet inside. Not to worry, you’ll soon come to realize that it’s the same Israeli culture, which in the beginning drove you nuts that makes you fall in love with the nation and its people.

The same Israelis that knocked you out of the way in the bank will let you cut them in line as a lone soldier trying to finish all of your errands in one day. The same cab driver that tried to rip you off by a few shekels will return your wallet if you ever left it in his cab. And that same person that hurt your feelings with his or her confrontational comment is the Israeli that will invite you to shabbat dinner the following Friday, because he or she knows that your family is so far away.

You’ll deal with government ministries in a foreign language. It will become clear that government bureaucracy sometimes makes no sense. But you’ll soon be helped by the hundreds of Israeli volunteers that happily take time out of their day to make sure that it all works out for their lone soldiers.

The army is hard enough for native Israelis, let alone a new immigrant. The language will be a puzzle, the physical intensity will be rigorous, but the worst of all is when the families of your fellow soldiers will come to visit them on base for shabbat. However, you’ll realize that their parents will cook extra food and pay more attention to you than their own child, in order to make sure that you don’t feel any extra loneliness.

The next two to three years of your life will be the most challenging yet, and the only thing that will keep you moving forward is the warm and inclusive culture and people in Israel. My advice to you is not to drive yourself crazy over the culture shock, because it will be the reason you won’t want to leave the country when you finish the army.

If you don’t believe me, you’ll see it for yourself. You’re not immigrating to a country. You’re joining the large family that we like to call the State of Israel.

Good luck in your draft process, stay safe, and welcome to the family!

-Joey

Lone Soldier Resources

The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin

NBN/FIDF Lone Soldier Program