IDF soldiers participating in the Or HaDagan Northern Command drill, September, 2017..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Salaries of combat soldiers in their final year of service will increase 25% to NIS 2,000 a month from NIS 1,600 on November 1.
“The most important part of the IDF is our fighters,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said on Wednesday in making the announcement.
“We’re trying to make sure and convey to the soldiers how much we appreciate them.”
According to IDF statistics, there has been a decline in motivation of recruits to serve in combat roles, with just 67% seeking fighting positions this past July, down from 71% in March and 74% in November.
The reason, according to the IDF, is a preference to serve closer to home and in technology or cyber-defense roles.
The chief of staff stressed that although the additional salary would be allocated to combat soldiers, the change did not by any means signify that soldiers such as those serving in cyber units don’t matter, but rather that “the most important thing is the army’s fighting force that carry out the tasks and risk their own lives while doing it.”
Eisenkot added that he would be happy to see such transformations made in the future “not only through donations but as an institutionalized, state-sponsored” process because the country ought to show that it “values those who serve it.”
The salary increase is only one of a series of changes the army is implementing to alter the trend, including significant improvements at combat bases, as well as cards with benefits; new equipment; and funding a bachelor’s degree for every combat soldier.
The budget for the funding of bachelor degrees for combat soldiers is combined with the Defense Ministry, IDF and donations, Eisenkot said.
“I told Friends of the IDF that money is important to build buildings and basketball courts, but most importantly to build people – to take 8,000 soldiers and make sure they attend university,” he said, stressing that education makes for a better army and a better society.
The benefits card, which has a NIS 1,000 value, will not only reduce the need for donations and reduce the expenses of soldiers and their families, but also allow fighters to purchase personal items such as socks, athletic shoes and undershirts. It also could be used in restaurants and movie theaters.
The IDF also will invest some NIS 70 million to make sure every combat soldier who finishes basic training also receives a kit with new and improved equipment, including generic items needed for combat, as well as being tailored to the needs of fighters in different units. The kit, which already has been received by some 5,000 soldiers, will remain with them throughout their service.
Furthermore, the soldiers will receive their combat-soldier certificate, which entitles them to certain benefits, at the end of 18 months of service instead of the current 20 months.
The chief of staff went on to explain that these changes are being introduced in order to empower combat soldiers who are already in service.
“This is a process that has been going on for several years,” he revealed. “Somebody has to do it [man combat positions in the army] and that is the way to make the greatest contribution to the army, to fight in its combat units.”
Eisenkot said the message he wants Israeli youth to take away from the announcement is that when they enlist that they “do the very best they can to make as meaningful a contribution as possible.”