January 4, 2010 / 18 Tevet 5770

For thousands of young men and women who are living in Israel instant laons without family and who voluntarily serve in the IDF, entering civilian life can be traumatic.

But the multi-faceted “Wings” program, a Jewish Agency program in partnership with the Merage apply for bank loan Foundation and other donors, gives these lone immigrant soldiers support and guidance before and immediately after they are discharged.

To celebrate Wings fifth anniversary, the Jewish Agency held an all-day conference on December 30, 2009, in Tel Aviv. David Merage of Denver, whose vision and support makes Wings possible, was in attendance along with his wife, Laura, and mother, Katherine. Also present were Eli Cohen, Director-General of the Jewish Agency’s Department of Aliyah and Absorption, Shaul Mofaz, Kadima MK and former defense minister, Professor Dan Ben David, executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, and Avi Zamir, head of the IDF’s Personnel Directorate. Special guest included Tal Brody, former basketball star and chairman of the Spirit of Israel for the Jewish Agency.

Merage, who lives in Denver, created the David and Laura Merage Foundation to promote self-sufficiency through education and community development in the United States and Israel. His devotion to the lives of lone soldiers in Israel stems from his experiences as a teen leaving his native country of Iran to study in England. “I know what it is like to be alone in a strange country,” he told the crowd.

An estimated 2,500 soldiers serving in the IDF come from overseas and do not have parents in Israel. Each year, around 700 of these finish their military service and enter Israeli society, with 75% committed to staying in the country. But according to a Jewish construction loans bad credit Agency study, in which 113 lone soldiers were surveyed, the vast majority are not equipped for Israeli life.

In 2009 more than 800 soldiers participated in Wings. Through Wings, lone soldiers transitioning to civilian life can learn everything from how to write a check and reading a rental contract to navigating their rights as citizens, such as understanding and accessing their national insurance payments, medical insurance, taxes and college scholarships for new immigrants. Wings participants also have access to workshops on job market skills and higher education opportunities.

After the course, each soldier receives career counseling and testing, financial advice, personal guidance and counseling sessions, and follow-up and support from Rotary Club members.

The Wings program provides every lone combat soldier with an immediate “Landing on their Feet” grant of $500. This assists them with their initial living expenses until they receive their loans long term discharge grant from the army.

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