Defense Ministry cuts rental assistance for discharged lone soldiers

Lone soldiers by law are entitled to NIS 1,000 for 12 months following their discharge from the IDF – but the ministry says they no longer have the money.

IDF cadets at Base 80 will be allowed to quarantine at home (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
IDF cadets at Base 80 will be allowed to quarantine at home
Even though thousands of Israelis are struggling to pay their bills due to the ongoing financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Defense Ministry has decided to stop the rental assistance for discharged lone soldiers.
First reported by Army Radio, the cut would mean discharged lone soldiers, who by law are entitled to rental assistance of NIS 1,000 for 12 months, would no longer receive that sum.
In response, the ministry said that, “due to the coronavirus, requests for assistance by discharged soldiers have risen significantly and the annual budget was [already] fully utilized in September.”
The ministry said it is working with the Finance Ministry to “bridge the gap” and provide the discharged lone soldiers with “the assistance they are entitled to by law.”
“We apologize for the delay and will do everything we can to advance the issue,” the ministry added in its statement.
Matan Vilani, former deputy chief of staff, former Knesset member and current chairman of Commanders for Israel’s Security, said that it was a problem that must be solved “today before it’s too late.”
“No lone soldier must be left behind! These are soldiers who have no mother and father [here in Israel] and are without any financial support. We must not get into a situation where there is no one to take care of them,” he said.
Vilani said that the person who made the decision “did so without understanding the priorities.”
“Serving in the army, which in my generation was obvious, it’s not anymore,” he said, referring to the fact that many Israelis now choose not to draft into the IDF. “But lone soldiers are youth who can easily not serve, but choose to serve... youth from Russia, the United States who decided to come and serve while Israelis chose not to.”
Vilani, who also served as the head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate, said that while the ministry needs more funds, it already has a large budget and the sum given to lone soldiers is not something that must be cut to find the extra funds.
“The assistance that the Defense Ministry gives them, which is a lot for the lone soldier, is nothing for the ministry... What’s 1,000 [shekels] a month?” he said.
With many soldiers, including lone soldiers who have no family support in the country, discharged less than six months before the coronavirus pandemic began, they do not qualify for unemployment benefits from the state because they have not accumulated enough time as citizens with employment.
Throughout the now almost year-long crisis, the IDF’s Manpower Directorate has received a surge in requests by soldiers to extend their mandatory service, even by just a few more months due to the lack of jobs available due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus.
Throughout the crisis, the Finance and Defense ministries have announced multiple packages for soldiers discharged from the military over the past year, totaling more than NIS 14,000 per soldier.
Nevertheless, before the Jewish New Year, Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers said that they had identified a record demand for financial assistance by lone soldiers and soldiers from low-income families due to the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.
For the first time, lone soldiers who were discharged from the IDF in the past year and are in need of financial assistance were also able to reach out to the organization.
“Usually before the holidays, we see a rise in need, but especially now because of corona,” Yahad CEO Yaron Be’ery said. “This year, we are seeing a change – for the worse. The amount of soldiers who are in need of these donations has increased. The [corona] situation has made it so that more and more soldiers are in need – besides those who we knew would need help.”