IDC Herzliya | Lone but Not Lonely

As a proudly Zionist institution, IDC Herzliya embraces its large community of students who have served or plan to serve in the IDF, especially “lone soldiers” living in Israel without their parents

Rebecca Kopans
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Students from all over the world at the IDC Herzliya campus
Students from all over the world at the IDC Herzliya campusCredit: IDC Herzliya
Rebecca Kopans
Promoted Content

IJonathan Davis, Head of IDC Herzliya’s Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS) and VP of IDC Herzliya for External Relations, knows what it is like to be a lone soldier in the Israeli army. After all, he was one himself. “I made Aliyah and served as a combat soldier in the reconnaissance unit of the Paratroopers Brigade, and in those days lone soldiers didn’t have any benefits,” he recalls. “Today, I am coming full circle by doing everything I can to assist soldiers in every way possible. For me and for IDC, supporting lone soldiers is a top priority. We are passionate about this and it is extremely satisfying to see how things are done differently today.”

Approximately 300 former lone soldiers study at RRIS every year – around 15% of the overall student body – and approximately 100 more students in each graduating class decide to remain in Israel and to enlist in the IDF. “IDC is like a large absorption center,” Davis points out, adding that the university is committed to supporting its students as much as possible and help them acclimate to Israel.

Students interested in joining the army after graduation receive personal assistance, often from Jonathan Davis himself, to make sure that they are assigned to a meaningful and suitable job in the IDF. “I am a former Lieutenant Colonel in the IDF reserves and have many contacts in the army,” he reveals.

Jonathan Davis,Vice President External Relations,Head of the Raphael Recanati International SchoolCredit: Alon Gilboa

Every year, RRIS organizes information sessions about the army for students in their final year of studies. Alumni who are currently serving in the IDF are invited back for those events, in order to tell about their experience and answer questions. “We stay in touch with our students after they join the IDF,” notes Davis. “We still embrace them on Rosh Hashana and Passover, with a letter from IDC Herzliya President Prof. Reichman and myself, together with gift cards.”

Smooth transition

The Raphael Recanati International School is also a natural next step for many young people from abroad who come to Israel and join the army straight after high school. Even though they usually speak Hebrew quite well after a few years in the IDF, reading and writing is more of a problem and they generally prefer to study in English.

Numerous members of Garin Tzabar, a program that facilitates service in the IDF for Diaspora Jews who do not have parents in Israel, traditionally enroll at RRIS after they complete their army service. Every year, IDC invites Garin Tzabar soldiers to campus to hear about the academic tracks and available scholarships. “In addition to IMPACT! scholarships from the Friends of the IDF, we provide extra scholarships based on need,” says Jonathan Davis.

As a humanistic Zionist university, IDC gives preferential treatment to people who have served in the IDF, especially combat soldiers and officers. When considering applications, they look at a candidate’s academic background and test scores, but also take into account their service in the IDF. Nonetheless, IDC is a pluralistic institution that welcomes minority groups and is proud of its diverse student population, which includes young adults from many different backgrounds and religions.

IDC Herzliya also steadfastly supports students who are called up to reserve duty during their studies. Students whose studies are disrupted by reserve duty are offered personal assistance and mentoring upon their return, to make sure they catch up with the classes they missed. They also receive a “TLC care package” from the Student Union, which includes such goodies as an IDC sweatshirt, backpack and LED flashlight.

Once a year, IDC hosts an event honoring students who serve in the reserves. “It’s our way of thanking them and showing them that someone cares,” explains Davis. Furthermore, students who spend more than 11 days a year on reserve duty receive two academic credits.

Niv, 23, 3rd year Communications student

Like many former lone soldiers, Niv Gittelman’s parents are Israeli but he grew up abroad – in his case in Panama. After high school, he came to Israel on a Birthright program and stayed for six months. “I saw many soldiers and I felt it was my duty to enlist,” he says. In 2016, Niv made Aliyah and joined the army, serving as a paratrooper. “I was a lone soldier and lived with my grandparents. I was different from other soldiers because I did not have my parents or friends here,” he recalls.

Niv Gittelman

After the army, he decided to study at IDC. “The transition from the army to IDC was natural and smooth. They helped me with all the bureaucracy. Compared to my friends who went to college in the U.S., I have more life experience and also work experience. A large share of my class came to IDC after the army like me.” And what are his plans after graduating? “I’m working on a start-up and plan to stay here,” he says with a smile.

Kelly, 23, Serving in the IDF, IDC Class of 2019

Kelly Odes

Kelly Odes grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and came to Israel four years ago to study Government and Diplomacy at IDC. “It was a great experience. I was surrounded by people from all over the world and really learned diplomacy that way,” she says. Although her original plan was to leave the country after her B.A., Kelly soon “realized how special Israel is” and decided not only to remain, but to join the army. “IDC was instrumental in helping me prepare and they provided a lot of support,” she insists. She is proud of her army service and is convinced that her degree from IDC helped her get accepted to the prestigious Spokesperson’s Unit.

Sharon, 22, 3rd year Psychology student

Sharon Baron was born in Israel but when she was four years old, her family moved to New Zealand and then to Australia. “At 18, I decided to come back to Israel and join the army, like my older brothers did,” she says. Sharon became a shooting instructor in the Nachal combat brigade, and when she completed her service, she decided to study at RRIS since she reads and writes much better in English than in Hebrew. She received an IMPACT! scholarship for lone soldiers to help pay for her studies.

Sharon Baron

Many of Sharon’s IDC classmates are also former lone soldiers, and they recently travelled to Eilat on a special trip for former lone soldiers organized by the National Student Authority. “I love IDC. It provides a lot of support and it’s also fun. There are so many events, there’s always something happening,” she enthuses.

Jonathan, 23, 2nd year Business and Entrepreneurship student

Jonathan Dar grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. When he was 16, he spent his summer vacation visiting family in Israel. That was the summer of Operation Protective Shield and the experience had a profound effect on him. In fact, he decided that he would join the IDF after high school. “I could have continued to college in the U.S. but I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. I felt the call of duty,” he explains. The next year, Jonathan made Aliyah as part of Garin Tzabar and served in the IDF for almost three years in an elite combat unit.

Jonathan Dar

After his discharge, Jonathan travelled in Europe and Asia and then began studying at IDC Herzliya. “People I knew recommended IDC. Many soldiers from Garin Tzabar and other olim come to IDC. A whole degree here costs like just one year at a college in the U.S. and it only takes three years, not four. So it makes a lot of sense financially. I love the degree and really enjoy the courses and the smaller classes,” he reveals.

Live in Israel, Study in English

IDC Herzliya’s Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS) offers a wide selection of full-degree programs taught entirely in English:

Undergraduate: Business Administration, Business & Economics (double major), Communications, Computer Science (BSc), Entrepreneurship & Business (double major), Entrepreneurship (BA) & Computer Science (BSc, double major), Government, Sustainability & Government (double major), Psychology.

Graduate: Behavioral Economics, Counter-Terrorism & Homeland Security Studies, Diplomacy & Conflict Studies, Financial Economics, Human-Technology Interaction (HCI), Organizational Behavior & Development (OBD), One-Year MBA, MBA Healthcare Innovation, GLOBAL MBA - Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Strategy & Business Development (MSc), Machine Learning & Data Science.

For more information about IDC Herzliya, visit or call 09-9602700