According to statistics released by the Human Resources department of the IDF on the eve of the Jewish New Year, one in five IDF soldiers requires food subsidies from the military in order to get enough to eat at home.
According to a statement made by the organization A Warm Home for Each Soldier in response to the report, numerous soldiers fall between the bureaucratic cracks of the military’s financial aid system. “Often commanders and officers help support their soldiers from their own pockets,” said a source in the organization.
According to a recent article that appeared in various Israeli media outlets, the report, which came out at the beginning of the month, noted that these circumstances have gotten worse in spite of the army beefing up its financial aid subsidies significantly in the past year.
Among those who require financial assistance are 6,200 lone soldiers, 3,500 soldiers who are married and require a special family stipend, and another 30,000 soldiers that require occasional financial assistance due to the low-income status of their families. Another 20,000 soldiers have received special dispensation from the military to work after they finish their daily military duties in order to earn extra income for their family.
These numbers only reflect the soldiers who are in active service, and do not include reservists or career soldiers who have chosen to make the IDF their profession.
The IDF has reported that soldiers who raise the issue of financial hardships at home can, upon receiving permission from their commanding officer, receive an extra 2,000 NIS per year, while combat soldiers can receive an extra 3,000 NIS, on top of their regular army salaries.
Other grants exist for which soldiers need not provide any sort of formal documentation, enabling them to receive immediate assistance. These include the Bezeq Grant of 600 NIS per request, as well as special vouchers for food which are given out around the holiday season to alleviate some of the hardships that the high cost of holiday shopping can cause for soldiers and their families.
Additionally, should the vouchers and grants run out for any specific unit, the unit commander can apply for extra support, and will almost always receive it in the form of extra vouchers for his soldiers, or even furniture and electrical appliances. These generally come from organizations that are dedicated to raising money to help soldiers, such as the LIBI Fund. The LIBI Fund is a branch of the IDF that was set up specifically to accept donations to soldiers in order to ensure that no IDF soldier is in want. Together with Israel’s First Lady, Sara Netanyahu, the LIBI Fund recently raised over 500,000 NIS for soldiers. The donations were given out before the holidays.
Executive officer of the LIBI Fund Lieutenant Colonel Eva Cohen told Breaking Israel News, “From the day that LIBI Fund was founded, it was our specific mission to help populations of our soldiers who are in need. This was the reason that this branch of the IDF was created. Every holiday season we continue to go to extra lengths to be there for the soldiers who need us. This year the LIBI Fund donated close to one million shekel.”
“We are proud to be here to help our soldiers and to be here for them. We will continue in our mission, to help out the soldiers in need even more in the future,” she added.
Despite the IDF’s efforts, however, the situation still often reaches the point where officers and commanders need to step in personally.
“I don’t know of a single unit where in the commanders, from the rank of company commander to that of captain, haven’t had to reach deep into their own pockets to help support their soldiers,” said Shifra Shachar from A Warm Home for Each Soldier. The situation has become so severe that, according for IDF reports, the number of soldiers who have gone AWOL due to dire financial situations at home have reached the hundreds this past year.
In an effort to stem that tide, the IDF has instituted a new rule over the past year, viewed by some as a radical change in IDF policy. According to the new regulation, if times get too difficult for a soldier or their family, any soldier may request up to a month’s leave in order to work and bring home an extra salary.