The IDF held a massive Seder for 400 "lone soldiers" who have no parents in Israel. Lone soldiers are defined as those who immigrated to Israel without their parents or whose parents have emigrated from Israel, as well as orphans and soldiers who are not in touch with their families for other reasons.
The soldiers arrived at "Al HaYam" seaside resort village at Givat Olga, near Hadera, on Wednesday, and were joined by the IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. He spoke with the soldiers and participated in a special program on IDF Radio, which was broadcast live from a temporary studio erected for the purpose.
Sgt. Avi Ben-Zaken with mother Clara
Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi spoke with several lone soldiers on the program, including Sgt. Avi Ben-Zaken, who made Aliyah (immigration to Israel) from Venezuela and has not seen his mother, Clara, for three years since his enlistment. The radio staff surprised Ben-Zaken by putting his mother on the line – and then surprised him even more by having her walk into the studio.
She had been flown into Israel especially for the occasion. The expenses of her flight were covered by the Friends of the IDF.
Ashkenazi was visibly moved by the occasion and implored Clara to make Aliyah herself. She said: "I am waiting a little while longer and then, with HaShem's help, we will be together."
Seder is especially difficult
Another lone soldier, Pvt. Gittit Kromoy, said that she misses her family in New Jersey every day but that Seder night is especially difficult. "This is the first Pesach without the family and the home food, and it will be weird," she said. She added, however, that "making Aliyah was my decision and I knew that the holidays were part of the deal."
The 400 soldiers also participated in a communal Seder attended by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other top officers. In addition, they were treated to various privileges, including a chance to record a "single" in a special musical studio and to call their families abroad for free and wish them a happy Pesach. The soldiers also participated in sports activities, and female soldiers enjoyed makeup and beauty workshops.