lone soldiers 248.88.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Absorption Ministry has failed to pay subsidies to several hundred lone immigrant soldiers for the past four months, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Following a Post inquiry on Tuesday, a ministry spokesman explained that the ministry's budget was overstretched, but promised that the funds would be paid out through the 2010 budget beginning January 1.
The Absorption Ministry subsidizes lone soldiers - immigrant soldiers living in Israel without parents - with NIS 352 per month. According to soldiers who have complained to various organizations that help them, many have not received this promised subsidy for as long as four months.
"It's true, we ran out of funds for 2009 for helping lone soldiers. On January 1, 2010, we are getting the next year's budget and everyone will receive exactly what they have coming to them," Absorption Ministry spokesman Yoash Ben-Izhak said.
Ben-Izhak insisted this would include all retroactive debts to soldiers. Though he declined to offer exact figures, Ben-Izhak said the problem was not widespread, but affected only a small number of soldiers.
Due to IDF standing orders, the soldiers themselves are not permitted to speak to the media. But according to an extrapolation by the Post based on the few statistics that are available, there may be as many as 500 lone soldiers currently bearing the brunt of the ministry's budget shortage.
According to IDF figures, there are some 5,100 lone soldiers serving in the army, of whom some 60 percent, or roughly 3,000, are new immigrants.
According to sources who work with lone soldiers, at least 80 Jerusalem-based soldiers have complained about not receiving the subsidy. Slightly less than one-fifth of lone soldiers live in Jerusalem, according to government figures, suggesting a nationwide tally of some 500 soldiers.
Multiplied by four months of non-payment, the ministry budget may have saved as much as NIS 700,000 at the expense of the soldiers.
While the ministry would not comment further, some of those who work with lone soldiers are angry.
"The budget needs were known ahead of time," said a source. "There wasn't any wave of aliya that flooded the ministry's coffers. How is it possible that they ran out of money by August for one of the weakest sectors of society, one that is forbidden from turning to the media. I'd like to know where the ministry's money didn't 'run out.'"
Ironically, in the wake of media criticism over failures related to lone soldiers, the IDF's Manpower Command released new instructions this week for commanders to become better acquainted with the needs of their soldiers.
The current budget crisis follows another shortage exposed by the Post over the past month, in which the ministry suddenly stopped paying out promised employment training vouchers to several thousand new immigrants. Following the exposure, the ministry negotiated for new funds from the Finance Ministry and restored the program.