Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) New York Young Leadership supporter Ashley Emrani of Great Neck was among those who joined some 5,000 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) lone soldiers—those with no immediate family in Israel—for a “Fun Day” last week at Israel’s largest waterpark just outside Tel Aviv for a day of rest and recuperation.
The Fun Day was hosted by FIDF in partnership with the IDF and Yachad Le’maan Ha’chayal (the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and the LIBI Fund). For the first time ever, the organizations also hosted an additional Fun Day for 5,000 front-line IDF combat soldiers at the waterpark last Thursday.
“To know that we were able to make this happen means the world, and we only hope to do more,” Emrani said.
There are some 7,000 lone soldiers from 80 countries serving in the IDF today. About 925 came from the United States, 639 from Ukraine, 559 from Russia, and 545 from France. Sixty-seven percent of lone soldiers are men, while 33 percent are women. Some 59 percent of lone soldiers serve in combat or combat-support roles. FIDF cares for all lone soldiers serving in the IDF through the Lone Soldiers Program, which supports them financially, socially, and emotionally during and after their challenging military service. FIDF also sponsors flights for lone soldiers to visit their families and friends in their countries of origin.
The FIDF Fun Day at the Shefayim Water Park benefited lone soldiers from all IDF units. In addition to the park’s many attractions, the Fun Day featured a pool party with leading Israeli DJ Eran Barnea, game and fitness areas, an all-day smorgasbord of barbeque and desserts, and a special performance by popular Israeli band Hatikva 6. Likewise, the front-line IDF combat soldiers enjoyed performances by Israeli rapper Tuna and the musical duo Static and Ben El Tavori the following day. The lone soldiers also received essential information about life after their military service, including about the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program, which grants college scholarships to Israeli combat veterans of modest means.
In addition to the lone soldiers, IDF unit commanders, non-commissioned officers, high-ranking military officials, and FIDF supporters also attended the Fun Day festivities to meet and personally thank these brave men and women in uniform for serving despite numerous challenges.
The two Fun Days kicked off the second annual IDF Appreciation Week, June 27–July 8, which benefits more than 50,000 soldiers. During the weeklong series of events, FIDF is also sending four ice-cream trucks to visit more than 24,000 soldiers on IDF combat bases across the country.