In a strong show of faith and solidarity with Israel, Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization founded in 2002 to make immigration to Israel easier, is celebrating bringing approximately 2,000 immigrants to the Holy Land in the summer of 2017. Included in this number are 82 future lone soldiers (Israel Defense Force soldiers without family in Israel).

“Moving to a foreign country in the Middle East is not an easy choice in the best of circumstances,” noted Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, the official welfare fund of the IDF. “Taking all that upon oneself in order to volunteer for Israel’s army is truly extraordinary.”

Israel’s consul-general in New York, Dani Dayan, told the new immigrants that they represented a “mortal blows to the delegitimization of Israel”. “They take notice of it in Tehran,” he said. “When Hezbollah threatens Israel, they know that you will defeat it.”

Turning specifically to the group of future IDF soldiers, Dayan added, “You are the commanders of the Jewish people… My young friends, you are about to join the first Jewish army in 2,000 years.”

While enlistment in the IDF is a known and expected rite-of-passage for native-born Israelis, lone soldiers can face tremendous cultural and emotional obstacles. Though each lone soldier on the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight displayed a brave and excited face, LIBI USA recognizes that the road ahead for them can be lonely and challenging.

“These immigrant soldiers rarely have a full command of the Hebrew language and often have no family or friends to turn to during the holidays and time off,” continued Grossman. “Therefore, LIBI USA funds IDF educational and cultural programs as well as special holiday gifts and activities specifically for lone soldiers.”

Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, shared at the flights welcome ceremony, “There are anti-Semites on the right and anti-Semites on the left. Our best answer is what you’re doing. We continue to build together our home, the State of Israel.”

Hannah Partney, a 22 year-old from Connecticut, said that she was eager to join an IDF combat unit, even though she lacks close family or roots in Israel. “I’ve always been interested in military service,” she said. “I thought about the US military but ultimately didn’t go that way. I’m interested in the discipline and the challenges. I don’t want to live in Israel on a free ticket. I want to do a service. That’s really important to me.”

Joshua Eisdorfer, a 22-year-old from Rockville, Maryland, referred to the Bible, stating, “Israel is my home and birthright, and the homeland of every Jew. In Bamidbar (the Book of Numbers), Moses says, ‘Shall your brothers go to war, and you sit here?’ Israel is the defense of world Jewry, and I want to be in the vanguard.”

“The August 15 flight is particularly noteworthy as a quarter of those on board have volunteered to serve in the IDF,” continued Grossman. “That’s a humbling reality which should send a message to all of us. Each individual who cares about Israel should do their part to support the Holy Land and its dedicated soldiers.”