The Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv hosted a party yesterday for its citizens serving in the Israeli army.
It was organised by Ambassador Deborah Lyons, who told The Jerusalem Post that she wanted to show the appreciation and care felt by the embassy for the “lone soldiers” who left their homes to serve in the Israeli army.
“Lone soldiers” are Jewish citizens of a foreign country serving in the Israeli army. As many as 6,000 such soldiers with dual citizenship are said to be in the programme.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin calls them “true Zionists,” while Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog has described them as “a true example of what Zionism is all about.”
Lyons told the Post that she had been wanting to hold a reception for Canadians serving in the Israeli army “for a very long time.” Three years in fact, since she was posted in Tel Aviv.
“Canadian lone soldiers are a particularly special group. I know some of the parents of these kids and I wanted to reach out and let them know that their Canadian family of the embassy is here if they want to talk hockey and a home cooked meal,” she said.
Canada’s Defence Attaché Col. Rick Thompson told the Post “the ambassador thought it would be a nice gesture to reach out to Canadian lone soldiers and make some social connections and talk hockey … If you get homesick, we embassy staff are connected to the wider Canadian community.”
There is a high risk of depression amongst “lone soldiers.” Young Diaspora Jews, according to a report in Haaretz, account for only 2 per cent of soldiers serving in the Israeli army, but in the past year the suicide rate among them has been disproportionately high.
Their recruitment has also been a cause of controversy. An Al Jazeera report found that radical organisations in Europe were recruiting western citizens to serve in the Israeli army where many of these foreign fighters took part in the 2014 Gaza war.
In the UK there have been calls for British citizens who volunteer for the Israeli army to be prosecuted like others who fight for foreign forces.