All the lonely people…where do they all come from?

September 24, 2019

by LIOR ZOREF @lior

Last week I gave a lecture to about 200 “lone soldiers” at an event celebrating the Jewish new year.

Meeting them left me with thoughts about the meaning of being a “lone soldier”, and loneliness in general.

I thought about the Beatles song lyrics, “All the lonely people… where do they all come from?”

Back to last week’s event. They came from all over the country and from all segments of life.

Half of them are new immigrants who chose to enlist in the army. On their own. Without their families. Without their friends. But with a strong sense of meaning that is hard to explain. I wrote about meeting one such inspiring female soldier (link) who told me something that left a strong impression, and which I think about to this day: “Everywhere there are difficulties. The question is what difficulties I choose to face. And I choose to deal with the difficulties here and do what I can to overcome them. That’s my choice”.

I think about this young girl often. While traveling around the world, I am curious about the difficulties that each country has. And there are many. When I’m back home, I have a different perspective. When I founded my non-profit venture for at-risk youth, she was a big part of what inspired me. I learned so much from her. Instead of complaining about what’s wrong, we need to act and help solve what’s most disturbing to us.

The second half of the participants were young people born in Israel, but life led them to live outside their homes and without a supportive family. Some had stopped being religious and were disconnected from their families, others young people without parents or whose parents were unable to raise them. Many are young people at risk who face both loneliness and many other challenges in their lives.

One of them told me that his father had been living abroad and except for two previous meetings, he had no contact with him. His mother was hospitalized with a mental disorder. He had low grades in high school. Everyone told him that nothing would come out of him. But he did not give up, improved his grades, studied at the Technion in Haifa, and enlisted for a significant role in the Israel army’s cyber uUnit – 8200. Today he is an enthusiastic young officer. He approached me and asked to volunteer as speaker at the nonprofit venture “Yes You Can“.

Many studies have found that about 20% of adult people in developed countries such as the US and the UK feel loneliness often or all the time.

It also happens among young people, due to social media that increase the sense of social isolation and loneliness.

I told the young soldiers that no-one can understand what loneliness is until they are lonely. Similarly, no one understands what the meaning of being a parent is until they have children. Then one of them asked, “If you could return back in time, would you rather not be lonely?”

Tough question. On the one hand that’s true. I wish I hadn’t experienced years of loneliness. On the other hand, I replied, due to this loneliness I found my purpose in life.

I told them wish that they too will be able to turn loneliness and hardship into their purpose and meaning in life. This could their life’s gift.

For the Jewish new year, I wish us all a year in which we will be far more together than alone. Both on a personal and a public level. This also seems to be the collective intelligence from the recent Israeli election results.

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