Former MK Rabbi Dov Lipman New Knesset Liaison for Lone Soldiers

April 30, 2015  

Rabbi Dov Lipman shocked Israeli Anglos by entering in the unexpectedly powerful 17th slot for Yesh Atid in 2013, becoming the first American-born member the Knesset in 30 years. #17 was not as lucky this time around, though that does not mean he has had trouble finding things to do – and he is still going to be linked to the Knesset.

He has been announced as the new Director of Government and International Affairs for both the Lone Soldiers Center in Memory of Michael Levin and Families of Lone Soldiers organization. With his experience in the Knesset, he became close to the issue and hopes to utilize his connections and more adept knowledge of the Knesset floor to advance causes both constant and new for the cause of lone soldiers.

“It developed because when I was in the Knesset the Lone Soldiers Center reached out to me and told me about a bunch of the needs that they had. But then they told me that after soldiers leave the army, a lot of people don’t recognize them or recognize what they’ve done for the country. We set up a ceremony once every four months when soldiers would be discharged.”

He says the issue regained a lot of traction on account of the deaths of people like Max Steinberg, who was from the Los Angeles area.

“My goal was to put together a lot of part time roles and this position worked, it fit so well. Sometimes it can be difficult to advance certain causes in the Knesset, whereas here, coming from an outside role I can work in some ways better than what I had been able to when I was a member of the Knesset.”

“44% are Israeli, meaning that most people assume lone soldiers are all from overseas, but a very high percentage are haredi or are from broken-home backgrounds.”

Paralleling what lone soldiers adviser Tzur Od told Arutz Sheva back in 2012, “There are haredim who remain religious and their parents essentially eject them from their homes and they are on their own. There’s a large portion who’s left the framework and they’ve chosen to serve in the army, yet they don’t have the embrace of their families.”

“The object is to help any soldier have a second home, their needs taken care of.”

“The element that the lone soldiers from overseas bring is the Zionism, freshness, and zeal,” says Rabbi Lipman, who has says IDF officers are often glad show them off as exemplary figures in their units just by their mere being here. “And the commanders talk about the inspiration they bring because the thought that these people gave up what they did in the US to come here is really inspiring.”

Rabbi Lipman emphasizes that the organizations he represents fight on three fronts: prior to entering the armed forces, during their service, and after their discharge.

“Pre-army: There are some programs that exist already but many don’t have the right framework for people coming from haredi homes who could use a special program.”

There are some cultural givens in Israel that are not so apparent to either the parents of the lone soldiers from abroad or to the soldiers themselves when they get here. One of them is that families tend to send extra equipment and clothes to their kids when they are serving.

“A lot of it is social in nature, they need to have that secnd home and the Lone Soldiers Center helps with that but there are needs in terms of equipment that parents help them with while there are here.”

The army provides a social network for people and some consistency when living on their own. Yet, once that is over, the real work begins regardless if the lone soldier is a recent oleh hadash (new immigrant) or has Israeli family he cannot go back to.

“Post-army, that’s where there’s a real gap because there needs to be a real framework for incentives to hire there people to really make it possible for them to settle in Israel, to break in. I believe it is our responsibility as a country to create that address, some kind of office to help them plan their next steps.

A last important caveat he hopes to improve on is communication, particularly with families.

“They feel they get no communication from the army at all. Unfortunately, the first communication can sometimes be the knock on the door. We want to change that. Right now, there are over 6,000 lone soldiers and I want people to report back about the experience to Jewish youth around the world.

When asked if he felt relieved to be in a slightly different position than the MK’s seat, despite losing his seat in 2015 elections, he said the following:

“There’s a sigh of relief. There is a freedom, but I’m keeping my foot in.”

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