Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim has promised to look into complaints about the system of providing benefits to lone soldiers after reports that some of the soldiers' parents are delaying immigrating to Israel themselves to prevent their children in the IDF from losing those benefits.
Lone soldiers - IDF soldiers whose parents reside outside Israel - receive twice the salary other soldiers do, as well as a rent stipend.
Unlike most IDF soldiers, who must apply for permission to leave the country during their military service, lone soldiers are granted 30 days leave a year to spend with their families abroad. But the moment the lone soldier's parents immigrate or return to Israel, he or she is no longer entitled to these benefits.
Boim, visiting Russia on an outreach trip to Jewish communities in Moscow and St. Petersburg, has met with a number of parents of such soldiers.
"A lone soldier comes [to Israel] alone and the benefits they receive are intended as an incentive," Boim told the Post on Tuesday. "[They] allow lone soldiers to manage on their own [while] fulfilling their duty," he continued.
"Many parents - in order to preserve their children's benefits - suspend their plans to make aliya," said Boim. "This is a delicate issue. A parent choosing not to make aliya [goes] against the idea of aliya," Boim continued.
The absorption minister said he would look into the issue after he returned to Israel. "It all hinges on the Absorption Ministry's annual budget," Boim said.
Alexander Hefetz, a Moscow resident whose son, Leonid, serves in the IDF, has contemplated immigrating to Israel but doesn't want to put the benefits Leonid receives as a lone soldier at risk.
"I would love to move and live in the Promised Land," Hefetz told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview. "Once Leonid is released and establishes himself in Israel, I will make aliya," he said.
Hefetz told the Post that Leonid, currently serving in the 35th Paratrooper Division, was "well taken care of."
"We try to speak on the phone weekly and see each other at least once a year," he added.
Among the parents Boim met in Russia was Hefetz, who raised the question of lone soldiers losing benefits. "It [has become] a real problem for many parents," he said. "In all honesty, I think it's a travesty. [Lone soldiers] should keep benefits for some time, at least so parents can make aliya," Hefetz said.
An IDF spokesperson explained that while lone soldiers lost their special status if their parents moved to Israel, the army was prepared to help families find alternative sources of assistance for themselves and their soldier children.
However, in most cases, the IDF said, soldiers' parents planned their aliya in advance, allowing their children time to make arrangements with the relevant authorities. The army also said that all soldiers' requests for aid were addressed in their respective units.