In August 2016, Nefesh B’Nefesh welcomed North American Mahal Lone Soldiers into the Lone Soldiers Program family! These soldiers (Mahalistim) are now eligible for a Lone Soldier Grant, on behalf of Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Friends of the IDF (FIDF), as well as the range of services we offer Lone Soldiers serving in the IDF.
Mahal (מח”ל – מתנדבי חוץ לארץ) is an IDF volunteer program with the goal of allowing young men and women to contribute to Israel by serving in the IDF, without going through the official Aliyah process.
Mahal soldiers have the same rights and can expect the same treatment as any other soldier. Mahal soldiers who draft into combat units will enter the army in either March, April, July, August, November, and December. They will complete a one-month preparatory course followed by 18-months of active service.
The general Mahal program consists of two tracks, the Hebrew Study Course at Michve Alon and the Field Units and General Units Draft. Mahalistim are placed into these programs based on their level of Hebrew.
Hebrew Study Course (Michve Alon) – This track is intended for those whose Hebrew level is low. The track consists of a 3-month Ulpan course at the Michve Alon army base. From there, the Mahalistim are drafted into the unit where they will serve for the remaining 15 months. This track is an option for both males and females.
Field Units and General Units Draft – This track is intended for those whose Hebrew level is high. In this track, the Mahalistim draft directly into a unit for the entirety of their 18-months of service. These placements are made before the draft by a selection officer. This track is an option for both males and females.
This track is intended for those who are part of a Yeshivat Hesder and wish to draft with their Yeshiva through Mahal. If your Yeshiva is recognized by the Igud Yeshivot Hahesder, you must be approved by the Igud Hesder to draft through the Mahal Hesder track. Otherwise, the head of your independent Yeshiva must approve participation in Mahal. This track is for males only and is the only track which does not require the one-month preparatory course.
Mahal Hesder Women
Women may participate in Mahal Hesder through Hadas Mahal at Midreshet Lindenbaum – a 3-6 month learning program followed by 18 months of military service. This track is for females and does not require the one-month preparatory course.
This track is intended for those who are very religious (Haredi/ Ultra-Orthodox) and wish to draft to a designated religious unit called Netzach Yehuda (Gdud 97 of Kfir, Tomer of Givati, or a Gdud in Tzanhanim). In this track, you draft directly into the Haredi unit for an 18-month service (an interview is required to join these units). Hebrew lessons are provided in this unit, and those with a low level of Hebrew may apply; although it is recommended to join only if you have a high level of Hebrew. Joining through the Hebrew study course does not guarantee, and even contradicts, being placed in a Haredi unit. This track is for males only.
- Men: 18-23
- Women: 18-20
- Doctors: Until the age of 31
- A Mahal soldier must be Jewish according to the Israeli Law of Return.
- In order to qualify for Mahal, one may have been in Israel 12 months on a non-recognized program and 18 months on a recognized program such as Masa. Recognized programs include: MASA high school, Yeshiva, Sherut Leumi, Army Mechina or other MASA programs.
- Bnei Mehagrim are permitted to be in Israel for 4 months on a non-recognized program and 12 months on a recognized program (Mahal hesder, he can be in yeshiva for up to 18 months)
Begin the sign-up process at least four months prior to the date you wish to draft. You must be in Israel to complete the Mahal application process. Be in touch with a Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Advisor (email@example.com) if you have questions about the process.
Step 1: Get in touch with the Mahal office: Mahal@mod.gov.il or call 03-6084502, 03-6084506 (email is preferable)
Include in your email the following information: name, origin, date of birth, when you want to draft and to which unit/position, if you or your parents have or have ever had Israeli Citizenship, dates of entry and exits to Israel and purpose of visit (optional), and any questions you may have.
Step 2: Personal Interview at the Mahal Office in Tel Aviv (משרד הביטחון אגף תל אביב)
What to bring:
-Passport from country of residence (must be valid for the next 3 years at least)
-Medical Forms (provided by Mahal or download here: Mahal Medical Declaration – English)
-Original Birth Certificate
-The original letter from your Rabbi/Beit Din etc. confirming that you and\or at least one parent\grandparent is Jewish (we recommend you contact your local Jewish Agency representative to make sure you receive a proper letter that can be approved by the Jewish Agency in Israel). Click here for more information about the Proof of Judaism
-If you have any recent medical test results such as blood and urine tests from the last 3 months, immunizations records, prescriptions for drugs/glasses/eye contacts, documents of previous medical/mental treatments – bring them as well, as these will help with the enlistment process.
Step 3: Mahal officials will check that you have met the requirements in Step 2
Step 4: Receive your Mahal visa. This visa will be in your foreign passport and Mahal will take care of the arrangements.
Step 5: Tzav Rishon (see NBN step-by-step guide to Tzav Rishon, but please note that Mahalistim will receive their Tzav Rishon quicker than Olim).
Step 6: Attend a one-month army preparatory course. This is free and the school assigned depends on availability. Mahal will assign the school.
The goals of the prep school are to improve the Mahalist’s Hebrew skills, mental and physical prep for army, Zionist education and to learn more about Israel, learn Israeli culture (all taught in English)
Step 7: Receive your Ishur Giyus (draft day information)
Step 8: Go to Bakum (IDF enlistment office) on the assigned day and become a soldier!
Note: Most Mahal soldiers must attend an army Ulpan for the first 3 months of his or her service, depending on the soldier’s Hebrew level
During their Tzav Rishon, the soldier will take a Hebrew test and receive a Hebrew score. This score determines whether they need to take the army’s Hebrew course. The highest score for the exam is 9. If you receive a 6 or above, you will not need to take the army’s Hebrew course; if you receive 5 and below, you will need to take the course. You can request to retake your Hebrew exam 6 months after your Tzav Rishon.