Lone soldiers mark Thanksgiving in Israel

The American Jewish Committee hosting some 30 lone American soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces far from their families at its Jerusalem office for a Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 24, 2011. This year, the 10th time AJC has hosted the event, there was no longer an empty chair at the table marking the captivity of Gilad Shalit. (American Jewish Committee)

The American Jewish Committee hosting some 30 lone American soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces far from their families at its Jerusalem office for a Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 24, 2011. This year, the 10th time AJC has hosted the event, there was no longer an empty chair at the table marking the captivity of Gilad Shalit. (American Jewish Committee)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Several organizations in Israel held Thanksgiving dinners for American "lone soldiers."

The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin on Nov. 24 hosted a Thanksgiving meal and football tournament for more than 300 soldiers who have come to Israel to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and left their parents, family and friends behind.

The American Jewish Committee celebrated the 10th anniversary of its annual Thanksgiving dinner for lone American soldiers. Some 30 soldiers from across all IDF units attended the dinner at the AJC offices in Jerusalem.

Each year since captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was seized, the AJC Thanksgiving dinner featured an empty seat prepared in his honor. With his release in October, this year the seat was not present.

Nefesh B’ Nefesh hosted 50 lone solders and more than 100 young professional olim for its fifth annual Nefesh B’ Nefesh Thanksgiving dinner.

“This was a great opportunity for young professionals and lone soldiers to enjoy a traditional festive meal and express their thanks together with fellow olim from around the country for their good fortune,” said Rachel Kaufman, events and programs coordinator at Nefesh B’Nefesh.

The IDF gives leave to all lone soldiers who request to attend Thanksgiving dinner, according to the Lone Soldier Center.

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