Aliyah organization Nefesh B'Nefesh says that the “Lone Soldiers' Flight” landing in Ben Gurion Airport next week will include 109 youths aged 18-23 – 55 boys, 54 girls – who are going to enlist in the IDF.
Higher motivation among north American youths considering aliyah is being reported by Nefesh B'Nefesh, which specializes in assisting Jewish immigration to Israel, following Operation Protective Edge and the deaths of “lone soldiers” Sgt. Max Steinberg and Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli hy"d, who were killed in Gaza.
According to Noya Govrin, Director of the Lone Soldiers' Program in Nefesh B'Nefesh, the number of emails, phone calls and requests by Americans to enlist into the IDF has grown considerably following Operation Protective Edge. “I have no doubt that the operation will have an effect on the number of youths who make aliyah in order to enlist, in 2015.”
The absolute majority among the lone soldier olim ask to serve in combat units. Among the boys, the highest demand is for Golani and the Paratroopers, and also for elite units like Shaldag, Duvdevan, Sayeret Matkal, and Shayetet 13.
The olim on Tuesday's flight also include 37 families, five doctors and dentists, two nurses and a pilot. Dozens of the olim plan to reside in northern and southern Israel, thus strengthening the “periphery.”
Jason Kreisler, 22 of New Jersey – who wants to serve in the Paratroopers – said: “Hamas wants to annihilate all of us, and the aliyah by me and by hundreds of other lone soldiers like me from the US is the Jewish people's best response.”
"Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg are a source of inspiration for me, and I admire their sacrifice for the country,” added Jacob Epstein, 19, of Florida, who wants to serve in Golani.
Ran Shitrit (18), lived in Israel from ages 5-8 - but will be returning home from New Jersey next week. "I have a brother and sister who already made Aliyah," said Ran. "She has been serving in the IDF. We were raised to have values, including a love for our country."
"I want to be a fighter in the Golani Brigade," he added. "The Operation in Gaza does not scare me but on the contrary, it gives me more motivation [to enlist]."
Jordan Brandwein, 18, of New York, also decided to give up the comforts of life in the Big Apple. "I want to serve in the paratroopers or navy," he explains. "It's the least I can do."
Ethan Fadnos (19) from Ohio has opted to aim for the Paratroopers' Brigade. "I could not think of a better time to make aliyah to Israel and join the IDF," he said.
Alexander Avigdor (22) from San Diego wants to serve in Sayeret Shaldag, an elite IAF unit - and says recent events have made him stronger. "I'm very sad about the two lone soldiers from the United States who were killed," Avigdor said. "This just highlights how a lone soldier's military service is not a simple thing."
Gal Wand (18) from New York, is opting to serve in the Engineering Corps."The current situation in the country only motivates me more to go and join the army," he said.
About 2,800 lone soldiers from around the world – 800 of them from the US – serve in the IDF, and about 900 enlist every year. Most of them are assisted and guided by the Lone Soldiers Program that was jointly initiated by Nefesh B'Nefesh and FIDF, which accompanies lone soldiers' absorption into the IDF and the state of Israel.
The soldiers are eligible for financial assistance, personal accompaniment and guidance, and gift packages every three months. Upon their discharge from the IDF, thay are offered guidance on selecting their field of employment and studies, as well as work placement.
The Lone Soldiers' Flight is a joint project by Nefesh B'Nefesh and the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, together with the Friends of the IDF in the US, the Jewish Agency, the Israel Scouts (Hatzofim), Garin Tzabar and the JNF.
"The response in these young people [to war] is self-evident," said Gal Ben-Simol, CEO of the Tzofim movement. "This is Zionism in practice."