Nechama Rivlin, the wife of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted 30 lone soldiers from the Givati Brigade at a pre-Rosh Hashanah toast.
The gathering was also attended by Chana Eisenkot, the wife of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, as well as the commander of the Givati Brigade, Lt. Col. Ivri Elbaz.
The soldiers included immigrants from the US, France, Britain, and Switzerland, as well as soldiers without families.
The soldiers discussed their reasons for joining the IDF. Avraham, a lone soldier from the US, said: "When I heard about the kidnapping of the boys Gil-Ad, Eyal and Naftali, and the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, I could not just sit in America. So I decided to enlist."
Rafi, also from the US, said: "I always dreamed of serving in the IDF."
The lone soldiers spoke of the camaraderie of the IDF and of the 'culture of giving' that the army fosters. They also spoke of the bonds they formed with Israeli families who 'adopted' them during their service.
The soldiers also spoke about the difficulties and hardships they encountered in transitioning to a new country. Avraham explained that the language barrier was especially difficult for him. "People did not understand me, and it was hard to understand what they were thinking or feeling. It's hard to be in a situation where you don't know how to explain yourself."
Nechama Rivlin said: "Hearing your stories, I felt that you epitomize the honor of the State of Israel. You are the beautiful aspect of the land of Israel. Each one of you is a success story, and I am proud of you. It's not an obvious [choice], and when I listened to you, I was filled with pride."
Later, the President's wife expressed her joy at the opportunity to host these soldiers before the holiday. "It's not easy to be a soldier. It's even more difficult to be a lone soldier. Sometimes we feel a distance between our loved ones and ourselves, and that distance, even if it is physically not great, is still difficult to deal with. I have to say that the difficulties you are dealing with make you brave and special. You left your comfort zone, leaving behind a family, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, and girlfriends and boyfriends. You enlisted of your own choice, sometimes without even knowing the language."
"These days before the holidays are days of closeness and coming home, and during this time it is especially difficult to be far from your family," she continued. "The longing [to be with your family] grows, as does the difficulty [of being apart from them]. To my delight, each and every one of you has a family that will host you this holiday, and we in the President's Residence also say aloud: Our home is your home. Our family is your family. You are not alone! You are the soldiers of all of us. You are enveloped in the love and admiration of all of us and we, the people of Israel, are your family."