In a show of unwavering support for the brave young men and women who have made Aliyah (immigration to Israel) on their own and are serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and their parents, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Jewish National Fund-USA and Friends of the IDF (FIDF) have joined forces and launched “Operation Hug.” This initiative will provide hundreds of roundtrip airline tickets for one parent of any Lone Soldier serving in active combat-units during the Iron Swords War, from anywhere in the world.
There are approximately 5,000 lone soldiers, both men and women, who made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel and are then required to serve in the IDF), currently serving in active and reserve service units without any family support in Israel. Their parents are extremely anxious to be present in Israel at this time, both as a sign of support for their children and out of concern for them. The new emergency fund aims to shorten the distance between these parents and their soldiers and enable them to feel closer to where they are serving. The parents will fly to Israel with El AL Israel Airlines, who are generously cooperating with the project.
“We are deeply moved and humbled, during this challenging time, by the daily courage of all the lone soldiers who are bravely serving our Jewish homeland far away from their parents and family,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “We are extra sensitive to the concern this distance is causing the parents of these brave men and women on the front lines and have therefore established our ‘Operation Hug’ campaign to shorten the physical distances. I am proud that national institutions have come together for this beautiful project.”
“Lone soldiers have left behind their friends, family, and support systems to serve their Jewish Homeland. Now it’s our turn to serve them and offer whatever measure of comfort we can,” said Russell Robinson, CEO of Jewish National Fund-USA. “Not only will this initiative strengthen their spirits, but it will also strengthen our worldwide Jewish family in coming together to make a difference. There is nothing like a parent’s hug in these terrifying times, and we are proud to partner with two other incredible organizations to make this possible for Israel’s lone soldiers.”
“We are profoundly grateful for the unwavering commitment and dedication of the hundreds of thousands of IDF soldiers who courageously defend Israel in the pursuit of peace and security,” said Steve Weil, CEO of FIDF. “Among those making the greatest contributions to the efforts are the lone soldiers from around the world who have left their families behind to stand on the front lines. Their valor and selflessness inspire us, and we are honored to facilitate reunions with their deserving parents. Their service and dedication exemplify the highest ideals of commitment and courage.”
Parents benefiting from the program agree. One mother named Michelle said, “This is an incredible initiative. It’s almost my lone soldier’s 21st birthday, and there would be nothing more special for me to know that I am in the same country as him and have the possibility to give him a huge hug as well.”
Another mother, Stacie Stufflebeam, from Richmond, Virginia enjoyed a surprise reunion with her sons Evan, 24, and Adam, 29, who are reserve soldiers in the Nachal and Sayeret Golani brigades, respectively. Her third son, Yered, 27, also served in Nachal, and is on standby to fill in for another soldier if needed.
Supporting these brave lone soldiers who put their lives on the line for Israel’s security is the ultimate call to action. Bringing their parents to Israel during this time will help bolster their spirit and resolve and contribute to the welfare of our young heroes defending Israel.
For more information on how to enroll in the program: www.nbn.org.il/operation-hug
About Nefesh B’Nefesh (www.nbn.org.il)
Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA, strives to facilitate and celebrate Aliyah, advocate for Olim, and education towards a stronger connection to Israel. By minimizing financial, professional, logistical, and social obstacles, Olim are able to actualize their dreams and continue building a stronger Israel. The support and comprehensive social services provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh to its 75,000 new immigrants have ensured that 90% have remained in Israel.
The FIDF-Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program cares for some 3,500 Olim (new immigrants) from around the world who are currently in active IDF service. The program, with the full support of the IDF, offers guidance, support, and holistic care for all lone soldiers during each stage of their service, after their release from the army, and during the adjustment stages back to civilian life.
About Jewish National Fund-USA (www.jnf.org)
Jewish National Fund-USA builds a strong, vibrant future for the land and people of Israel through bold initiatives and Zionist education. As a leading philanthropic movement, the organization supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south as it develops new communities in the Negev and Galilee, connects the next generation to Israel, and creates infrastructure and programs that support ecology, people with disabilities, and heritage site preservation, all while running a fully accredited study abroad experience through its Alexander Muss High School in Israel.