HaBayit shel Benji's Guidance and Resource Center, staffed by professional staff and dedicated volunteers, provides guidance on vocation, education and housing after IDF service to ALL lone soldiers to ease their integration into Israeli society.
In order to transition to civilian life successfully, most young people rely heavily on their family and friends for guidance, advice and support. Lone soldiers who have completed their compulsory service find themselves facing a bewildering landscape - how to navigate the complexities of life in Israel – dealing with bureaucracies, banks, health insurance, etc. Where and what to study? What should their career choice be? How do they find their first job to enable them to live in Israel? For lone immigrant soldiers, the confusion and lack of direction lead to a very high percentage leaving Israel within a year or two of completing their service.
Our Guidance Center provides guidance, individually and through seminars and courses to these young people trying to build their new lives, in four areas:
• Vocation - workshops on how to write an effective resume, interview techniques; presentations of various job opportunities. The guidance counselor matches each candidate to suitable companies or areas of interest and encourages them to meet with relevant professionals, go to interviews and begin working. Local employers are also invited to "open days" to meet prospective employees.
• Education - workshop topics include introduction to institutions offering preparatory courses for higher education, presenting different career options (professionals who had been lone soldiers themselves will lead these workshops, as role models), how to apply to university or college, information on scholarships available and how to apply, and “reality workshops” with former lone soldiers who have succeeded in their chosen fields (e.g. medicine, law, accounting, architecture).
• “Living in Israel” - courses providing information and skills needed for an independent adult living in Israel without the support of a family. Topics range from renting an apartment, getting a driving license, government offices, banking, paying bills to securing health insurance etc.
• Financial Management – the most important element of the program is appropriate financial management to enable the discharged soldiers to live independently after their release. Using our unique macro, the soldier and his/her mentor calculate how much money each individual soldier needs to make in order to finance his/her chosen life in Israel. Together they build a monthly budget, according to which the soldier should live in order to survive financially and succeed in the future. If the soldier has outstanding debt, this will be turned into a loan, and loan repayments will be calculated into the monthly budget etc.
Each candidate is linked with a mentor, chosen on the basis of similar background and location: e.g a new immigrant from the Ukraine will be linked with a Russian-speaking mentor etc. Where there is a recurring issue affecting young people from a particular background, we will develop and provide a workshop that will help them all. Our mentors are all volunteers who dedicate much of their free time to helping these young people advance their life goals. A great deal of time and effort is spent recruiting and training volunteers and building them into a professional, supportive team.
Since opening in January 2014, our Guidance Center has assisted over 500 young people to build their lives and become productive members of Israeli society, with a 90% success rate. We aim to increase the number until we are able to help 1,000 young people a year, and we are currently building partnerships with several large organizations to enable us to achieve this goal. The annual running costs for this crucial service are approximately $ (U.S) 150,000 per year.
After nearly three years of operation, we need to expand the physical facilities of the Guidance Center (located in the basement of HaBayit shel Benji) to reflect the increase of our activities. The cost of this project - new offices, a kitchenette and bathrooms – is NIS 160,000 (approximately $ CAN 56,000).
The Benji Hillman Foundation http://www.benjihillman.org established and runs "HaBayit shel Benji", Israel's only purpose built home for lone combat soldiers. "Lone soldiers" are defined by the IDF as soldiers disconnected from their families for various reasons - orphans, immigrant soldiers with families overseas, soldiers estranged from their families and those from difficult family situations – low income and underprivileged families, broken homes etc – who cannot live at home.
This inspirational and unique project was started in 2006, after the death of Major Benji Hillman זל killed in battle in the 2nd Lebanese war. During the mourning period, Benji’s family heard from more and more people (especially the soldiers under his command, in particular lone soldiers) how Benji had helped them and taken care of them, above and beyond the line of duty. They realized that there was a genuine need to help these young people, who at that point were not receiving the help and care they needed and deserved, and decided to honor Benji’s memory and establish a Home and Guidance Center for lone combat soldiers, in his home town, Ra'anana.
Since opening in early 2013, Ha Bayit Shel Benji has become "the Home" for lone combat soldiers in Israel, providing pleasant and spacious accommodation for 48 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 etc. Some of the soldiers are matched with local "adoptive families" who take a special interest in their welfare and host them for meals on shabatot and holidays. Most importantly, skilled experienced and sympathetic staff and volunteers are present 24 hours a day to lend an ear and provide emotional support.
As well as lone soldiers from abroad, our residents include Israeli-born soldiers from poor socio-economic backgrounds whose families are unable to house or support them and other soldiers no longer accepted by their extended families. All the soldiers are referred to us by IDF Social Welfare Officers. This video clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1A0mflvE7w illustrates perfectly just how we impact the lives of these young people.
In response to an ever-increasing number of requests to help lone soldiers for assistance, the Board of the Benji Hillman Foundation agreed to add another floor to the Bayit, to house more soldiers. Thanks to the support of generous donors from around the world, we have raised almost 95% of this $1.5M project, and very soon the Bayit will be home to 75 lone combat soldiers, each with their own room/personal living space.
HaBayit shel Benji's Guidance and Resource Center, open to ALL lone soldiers (not just residents of the Bayit), is staffed by a professional Director, a Mentor Coordinator and dedicated volunteers who provide guidance on vocation, education and housing after their discharge from the IDF service and help these young people fully integrate into Israeli society.
For more information, please contact:
Resource Development Manager
Mobile: +972 (0)54-4865014
Our Website: www.benjihillman.org
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