A comprehensive survey released by the Israel Defense Forces on Monday shows that 34,000 members of the standing army receive financial assistance while another 20,000 hold down jobs in their spare time.
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A total of 4,200 qualify for help within the framework of a program that helps families in need, and another 30,000 are assisted at the recommendation of their commanders by means of receipt of vouchers that can be used at supermarkets and to purchase household products, according to the study.
Some of the financial aid comes from the IDF itself, while other funding is provided by nonprofit organizations including Friends of the IDF and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which draws major support from religious Christians in the United States.
An officer in the IDF Manpower Directorate says monetary assistance is allocated to soldiers “with many different kinds of problems, not all of which are officially recognized — such as gray-market loans, or because their families don’t manage to make ends meet even if they bring in more than the minimum wage.”
IDF sources say that most of the soldiers in question serve in units in the field. The army allows soldiers who are not in such units to have jobs on the side if they encounter financial difficulty, and data show that about 20,000 take advantage of that opportunity.
“It’s not a secret and all of us know about the prevalence of poverty,” said a Manpower Directorate officer, who noted that many draftees come into the army with socioeconomic problems.
“We invest a lot of money to maintain the model of a people’s army,” he noted, adding that this means helping soldiers with families facing financial problems, so they can have a meaningful military service.
At a time when the High Court of Justice is demanding that the IDF rethink its salary structure so that the wages soldiers earn will amount to more than just pocket money, the officer said there have been major improvements.
“We need to distinguish between subsistence money for soldiers doing compulsory service, which has been revised [upward this year]. That provides a solution to my daughter, and to a boy from a regular family that gets by all right. By contrast, we are talking about soldiers who need broader assistance, who need for there to be food on the table at home,” the officer told reporters.