Three lone soldiers home in Australia

April 16, 2021 by Elana Bowman
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Three Australians who served in the IDF and stayed in HaBayit shel Benji, a home for lone soldiers, which runs 24/7 all year round.

The soldiers are back in Australia after completing their service. Lone soldiers do not have direct family in Israel.

Located in Ra’anana, HaBayit shel Benji, named after Major Benji Hillman, killed in battle in the Second Lebanon War, 3 weeks after his wedding, provides pleasant and spacious accommodation for 87 lone combat soldiers for the entire length of their service. Each soldier has their own room, home-cooked meals, laundry services, a common room and library, leisure and recreation activities, matching soldiers with local families and more. Most importantly, skilled experienced sympathetic staff and local volunteers are present 24 hours a day to lend an ear and provide emotional support.


Ili was born in Sydney and moved to Israel to serve in the IDF. Her father is Israeli, after she went to The March of The Living she realised that she wanted to serve in the army. She went through an organisation who helped her with sorting out everything she needed to enrol.

Her mother found out about HaBayit shel Benji, and after visiting and looking it was the most attractive and logical option. She loved being in the bayit, with incredible food, accommodation, and volunteers. There was always someone to talk to, always some to offer help and advice, as well as volunteers and others who proffered services needed which made her feel at home and welcomed throughout her stay there.

The Bayit also has a program after soldiers get released to help transition into civilian life.

Ili had mostly positive experiences in the army, looking back it was all about learning and experiences for her. The organisation who helped her enrol helped her to find the best fit, and the best unit for her to serve in. In the unit she served in there was a large amount of studying involved and she enjoyed that.

She found her people in the Bayit. There are fewer females serving in combat and staying in the home, but they had a lot in common with each other and a mutual understanding.

Ili feels a sense of belonging with Israel. To her serving in the IDF gave her a sense of contribution and it was a privilege for her to serve in the IDF. For most people in Israel, the army is a normal way of life, and she found out who she is and what she wants to do in the future.

As she is currently studying Communications at university; spending time in Israel and learning about the history, heritage and culture means that her experiences there have enabled her to speak and show her opinion and offer others another perspective and understanding of the IDF and Israel.

Her advice for anyone who wants to become a lone soldier and serve in the IDF is to be open to anything that is offered to you. Take peoples’ advice on board. People will offer so much help and information, so being open to that opens up a world of possibilities. Accept the help.

David decided to make aliyah to join the IDF. He found out about being a lone soldier and how everyone wants to take care of you. There are a lot of organisations that offer help and support to lone soldiers. So when he was in a tough situation, he found out about HaBayit shel Benji. When HaBayit shel Benji took him in, he received a lot of medical support and advice. He also received a mentor, who is still in contact with and helped him to transition out of the army.

He is so grateful to HaBayit shel Benji. They offer all kinds of services which provided him a home and stability such as laundry, food, and support. He felt surrounded by people who understood exactly what everyone was going through.

Most of the festivals and Shabbats were held in-house with the house providing Kosher food. It was all-inclusive with non-Jews from several different units as well. The only requirement for being in HaBayit shel Benji is that you have to be part of a combat unit. People become lone soldiers for a variety of reasons, so some are foreigners and some are Israeli.

Serving in the IDF was the best thing for David. For him, it was a great experience overall. As he wanted to serve in the IDF, a lot of organisations helped him to make the move.

His advice for anyone who wants to be a lone soldier and serve in the IDF is that you are joining the military, so be prepared physically. Connect with organisations who will offer you endless advice and support. Do research on the army unit you would like to serve in. Israel is all about making connections, so attend social gatherings and seek out all the advice and support that you can.

Serving in the IDF makes you a part of Israel and a part of Israeli Society. It makes you Israeli and it completely connects you to the country.

David is happy in Australia for now and sees himself living in both Australia and Israel. HaBayit shel Benji is an amazing place with incredible facilities, beautiful food, everything is donated, and it feels like a home. It exceeded his expectations. It was a million times better than anywhere else. Being a lone soldier and being in HaBayit shel Benji is probably the best experience you will have as a soldier in the IDF.


Vered was born and raised in Australia. Made Aaliyah, joined the IDF and moved into HaBayit shel Benji. She made Aaliyah through a program which helps people overseas who need support and a place to stay. HaBayit shel Benji was recommended to her, she was astonished by how nice it was.

The IDF gives lone soldiers a lot of support. So with the help of the IDF payment for lone soldiers and HaBayit shel Benji, it was a place where everything is available for the soldiers staying there. They provide food, snacks to take back to their bases, laundry, and anything else if needed. Living in a place with other lone soldiers means that they all had a camaraderie. They all supported, helped and advised each other. If there was any connection needed or any way for one of the volunteers to help, the soldiers provided with services, information and assistance. It was the most helpful place, they even help you to transition out of the army. It helped her build connections and relationships with people.

The biggest challenge for her was the cultural shock. The Israeli culture is very opening and welcoming but you have to speak up and ask for things. When Vered talks about her experience as a lone soldier, she talks about reality. It is hard, tough, and you have to meet a lot of challenges. The majority of the Jewish holidays were spent on base, but others and Shabbats were spent in the Bayit. The home helps you to form relationships with people, who help you, and are in the same circumstances as you are. Not all of the soldiers are from overseas, there are Israelis as well as others who are in the Bayit for reasons so you all learn a lot a from each other.

Vered always has felt a connection with Israel. Since she was very young, she wanted to serve in the IDF and wanted to be there. Israel feels like home to her. Being in a combat unit suited her, she loved the challenges, the running and the jumping and especially loved all of the learning and the challenges she had to face being in the army. She speaks very openly about Israel, about people’s stances on Israel. She also offers advice and support to people in Australia who are thinking about the IDF and the challenges/reality that they will have to face.

Her heart is in Israel. For now, she is currently studying to become a Veterinarian, and wants to go back to Israel when she can. She has a sense of belonging to Israel.



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