IDF soldiers on a bus in Tel Aviv.
IDF soldiers on a bus in Tel Aviv. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The number of conscription soldiers who have asked the army for financial aid has risen sharply over the past five years, new figures reveal.

A report recently published by the Israel Defense Forces personnel directorate shows that between 2006 and 2011 the number of soldiers who struggle to make ends meet rose by some 70 percent, from 13,000 to 22,000.

Every year, the report says, an additional 2,000 soldiers file requests for welfare provisions. These do not include soldiers of extremely underprivileged background, who receive basic income guarantees, and whose number has stood at 5,000 for some years.

"As long as the IDF is a conscription army, we need to cater to every sector in society," says an officer from the personnel directorate.

Some 60 percent of these soldiers serve in combat units. In infantry units, more than a third of the soldiers receive some kind of support from the army's welfare services, also, in many cases, starting at a very early stage in the training.

"We realize that the training period is critical," the officer says. "The soldier could drop out, and even if he doesn't I want him to go on with his training without being preoccupied with what's going on at home."

Even though the IDF's welfare budget is slated to be increased this year by NIS 6 million and stands at NIS 120 million, personnel directorate officials say the amount allocated to each soldier remains unchanged. They also say that unless the budget is raised in accordance with the growing demand, the sums allocated to soldiers in financial distress will decrease.