Yorai Hertzano
Yorai Hertzano

From Lone Soldiers to ‘lone citizens’: Yesh Atid’s plan for young olim

Let’s begin with the premise that young olim who come to serve in the army bring benefit to Israel. If you agree, then you recognize that olim arrive with a rejuvenated sense of Zionism and an optimism about Israel’s future. Israel needs these olim to stay and build the future they believe in. Of course, it makes sense that Israel should do all that it can to ensure that they stay here to study, work, settle down, and create families.

It would make sense, yet it doesn’t happen. Half of all Lone Soldiers leave Israel for good after the army. Why? While Lone Soldiers are serving, the IDF takes care of their needs through an all-inclusive system that ensures a livable wage, a place to live, and support for resolving a wide range of issues, from family-related to bureaucratic.

If individuals are treated so well during their army service, why do they leave Israel after their service in such great numbers?

The answer is straight forward. On the day that Lone Soldiers are discharged from the army, they do not become regular citizens, they become “lone citizens.” If we want to provide released Lone Soldiers with the appropriate treatment to keep them here in Israel, we must first internalize this fact.

Lone Soldiers become lone citizens because they leave the framework of the IDF without additional help. Released Lone Soldiers need to find a place to live, to work, and to learn. Their basic life situation has not changed through their two or three years in the army; they are still young people in Israel without family and support. Who is there to help them?

Many released Lone Soldiers leave Israel because they cannot deal with seemingly unsolvable bureaucratic issues. One key example is that for years, the majority of released Lone Soldiers stop receiving crucial rental assistance, thousands of shekels that they are owed, due to bureaucratic red tape.

After years of injustice, it was time to change these policies, but the government was not interested in helping. When Josh, recently released as a lone soldier himself, described this absurd situation to me, I was shocked.

I immediately joined the struggle to reverse this injustice; contacting Construction and Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) who did not even respond to our outreach to fix this situation. Nonetheless, after our intervention the red tape was cut and a solution was found for future released Lone Soldiers. Yet this isn’t enough, because it doesn’t help the thousands of released Lone Soldiers who have missed out on thousands of shekels that they deserve. That is why my party — Yesh Atid — has made a commitment to help released Lone Soldiers receive this money that they missed out on from the Housing Ministry retroactively.

Young olim enlist into the army to defend Israel and fulfill their sense of Zionist purpose. They leave behind security, family and friends to give their all to our country.

They deserve more than the Ministry of Housing throwing up their hands and shrugging their shoulders. Olim and released Lone Soldiers deserve a government that will take care of their issues, not ignore them. That is why:

  • Yesh Atid will establish a special task force to help olim navigate the challenges of Israel’s bureaucracy.
  • Yesh Atid will create financial incentives to better integrate olim in the workforce.
  • Yesh Atid understands both the importance of aliyah and of sustaining olim for the long run so that they stay to build Israel.

Yesh Atid is the party for olim.

MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu is hosting a zoom in English on this subject this evening at 20:30 (Sunday, March 14th). Please register here to receive link to zoom: https://lp.vp4.me/c7yf

The above was co-authored by Josh Drill, who made aliyah and served as a Lone Soldier in a special forces unit. Upon completing his service as an officer, Josh directed his attention towards impacting Israeli society and advocating for Lone Soldiers.

About the Author
Yorai Lahav-Hertzano is a Member of Knesset with Yesh Atid.
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