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Head of Lone Soldier program to visit CT
By Cindy Mindell

There are nearly 6,000 lone soldiers serving today in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israelis and new immigrants with no family in Israel to provide support. The Lone Soldier Center is there to help.
Founded in memory of lone solider Michael Levin, a Philadelphia native who served in the IDF Paratrooper Brigade and fell in battle during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the Loan Soldier program is run by hundreds of volunteers, most of them former lone soldiers, who
provide vital services including counseling, Shabbat and holiday meals, household items, community-building, and social events.
Idan Ianovici is executive director of the center. An Israeli native, he was five when he immigrated with his parents and two sisters to Queens, N.Y., where the family remained immersed in Israeli culture and Hebrew language. In high school, Ianovici knew that he wanted to serve in the IDF, though his parents hoped he would stay in the U.S. and attend university.
In 2001, at the height of the Second Intifada, Ianovici returned to Israel and joined the military, serving as a platoon commander in an armored unit until 2004.
After being discharged, he earned his B.A. in government from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya and volunteered at the newly established Lone Soldier Center in Jerusalem, later launching the Tel Aviv branch. A year ago, Ianovici became executive director of the
organization.
“As a former lone soldier I understand the needs and difficulties of serving in the army without your parents in Israel,” he says. “The importance of easing the hardships of soldiers who have no family and no support system in Israel is what brought me to the Lone Soldier Center. There I found other former lone soldiers dedicated to helping others like ourselves, providing guidance, a social network of lone soldiers, and anything else they may need before, during, and after their army service.”
With centers in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beer Sheva, the Lone Soldier Center is able to provide lone soldiers wider access to services. The organization is funded entirely through private donations from Israel and abroad, and was recently granted tax-deductible, non-profit
status in Israel.
Ianovici will arrive in the U.S. later this month on a speaking and fundraising tour, which will include a stop in West Hartford.
“It’s important to me that American communities understand the needs of lone soldiers and how they differ from the rest of the young men and women serving in the IDF,” Ianovici says. “Without their parents in Israel, lone soldiers are left to fend for themselves once off the base. That means paying rent, buying and preparing food for themselves, doing laundry, and taking care of bill – all on a very limited salary and leave.”
Ianovici points to the connection between the identity-building work focus of American Jewish communities and the work of the Lone Soldier Center. “American communities have done a wonderful job in supporting Jewish youth through youth movements and community connections,” he says. “Once in Israel, however, many of these youth feel lost. Through the Lone Soldier Center, these youth and current lone soldiers find the support and community they left behind in their home communities.”
Ianovici is focusing on fundraising for three major projects: The purchase of 5,000 heavyduty backpacks for newly drafted soldiers, Shabbat meals for lone soldiers on leave, and an “adopt-a-draft class” sponsorship program.

For more information on Idan Ianovici’s upcoming visit to West Hartford contact him at idan@lonesoldiercenter.com.
Comments? email cindym@jewishledger.com.

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