STUDENTS WAVE flags at an event at Tel Aviv University..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Your July 24 op-ed, “A blind spot of Diaspora Jews on Israel,” laments the fact that supporters had donated over $31 million to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) in California in 2015, but did not support post-army educational opportunities for IDF soldiers.
In fact, the very opposite is true: during the 2015-16 academic year, through our IMPACT! Scholarship Program, FIDF granted 3,584 full academic scholarships, worth $16,000 each, to Israeli combat veterans who come from difficult socioeconomic backgrounds, enabling them to attend more than 90 educational institutions throughout Israel. This FIDF program, which was established in 2002 and today has about 6,000 graduates, is one of FIDF’s flagship – and most successful – programs.
It is a melting pot, including students from across Israeli society and of diverse genders, ethnicities, religions and interests.
Education is a core pillar of the FIDF organization, with 31 percent of our activities invested in education and culture – both during and after military service – and benefiting almost 10,000 soldiers and veterans. Education indeed lies at the heart of our mission, which is to offer educational, cultural, recreational and social services programs and facilities that provide hope, purpose and life-changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide. We are here to support soldiers during their service, and have also prioritized the need to continue this support through post-service education.
FIDF IMPACT! students also give back to Israeli society – both during their studies, by performing 130 hours of community service each year, and after graduating.
By collaborating with 17 different Israeli organizations, FIDF IMPACT! scholarship recipients, who have volunteered over three million hours of community service since 2002, are able to contribute to worthy causes such as helping Holocaust survivors, cancer patients, and children at risk. After completing the IMPACT! Program, alumni have gone on to become surgeons, engineers, screenwriters, lawyers, tech developers and more.
Moreover, FIDF also supports in-service educational programs for active-duty IDF soldiers, including the FIDF Formal Education Program, enabling soldiers to complete 12 years of high school education and receive their diplomas; the Amir Course, which provides education and professional development for Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers; Identity and Purpose and the Israeli Journey Programs, focusing on education retreats and seminars throughout Israel for both soldiers and senior officers; and the Witnesses in Uniform Program, which brings soldiers and commanders to Poland to commemorate and learn about the Holocaust.
Last year, FIDF provided 5,928 soldiers of all backgrounds and ranks the opportunity to participate in these various educational programs to foster their personal and professional growth. In 2016, FIDF created MOMENTUM, a program dedicated solely to ensuring soldiers have a smoother transition back into civilian life.
Beyond our work to promote and expand educational opportunities, FIDF also prides itself in providing financial aid to soldiers in need, helping wounded soldiers and veterans during and after the rehabilitation process, and supporting the families of fallen soldiers. For more information please visit fidf.org.
The author is national director and CEO of Friends of the IDF and a former major general in the Israeli military.