IDF Relies Heavily on Donations for Amenities at Bases - and Is Seeking More

Israel's Defense Ministry has invited architects to design prototypes of 'welfare facilities' for army bases, which will appear in a catalog to attract money from donors.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Amenities on Israel Defense Forces bases are funded largely by donations, and defense officials aren't bashful about admitting that they're seeking more assistance.

Two weeks ago the Defense Ministry called on architects to design a prototype for buildings such as clinics, fitness rooms and synagogues.

"The IDF of the 21st century is investing more than ever in soldiers' welfare and is building many such facilities at bases all over the country," the ministry said in a letter. It said these facilities increase soldiers' motivation to serve.

The ministry seems to suggest that the defense establishment pays for such facilities itself, but it later explains that the goal is to create "a catalog for the needs of donors," who give millions of shekels annually for this purpose. The ministry says architects can help encourage donations to the IDF from around the world.

Some architects and others who saw the letter wondered why the defense establishment doesn't invest more in basic needs like clinics. One source said that if these facilities affect soldiers' attitude toward IDF service, why do defense officials rely so much on donations to get the facilities built?

"A significant part of the budget for buildings for the soldiers' welfare comes from donors, who want to donate their money to the defense establishment," the letter states.

According to the Soldiers' Welfare Association, in 2011 more than NIS 22 million was donated to build welfare facilities and clubs for soldiers. That year 254 facilities were built in all branches of the military, including the Border Police.

Haaretz received no reply to its request for data on the number of such buildings funded by the IDF budget, or on the shekel sums involved.

According to a joint statement by the Defense Ministry and the IDF, "The defense establishment invests millions of shekels from its budget for the welfare of IDF soldiers. To support such activities, with an emphasis on a high standard of construction, the defense establishment uses donations from Israel and abroad. The donations are a significant factor in paying for the construction of these buildings."

The Naftali IDF base.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

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