Soldiers might return Torah study bonus

IDF: Some career soldiers enjoyed bonus for 5-year Torah study despite studying less than full course.

soldiers 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
soldiers 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
Some 300 IDF career soldiers might be forced to return tens of millions of shekels after they were accused of deceitfully using accredited Torah studies to boost salaries. In recent days, the IDF has sent letters to a group of career soldiers notifying them that they might be forced to return a portion of their past salaries. The letter said that the soldiers would be given a hearing first. According to an agreement between the Chief Rabbinate and the IDF, soldiers who studied Torah for five years would be eligible for a wage increase of between NIS 1,200 and NIS 1,500 a month. That works out to an annual salary increase of about NIS 15,000 per soldier times 300 soldiers. Various types of secular studies that have no direct connection with soldiers' military duties are also recognized by the IDF for the purpose of a wage hike. In 2002, about 300 soldiers and hundreds of police received certificates from institutes connected with leading rabbis stating that they had successfully completed the agreed upon course of Torah studies. However, it later turned out that many of the security personnel who took part in the Torah studies learned for fewer than the mandatory five years. Some received credits for high school and post-high school Torah studies. In some cases soldiers and police received credits without ever participating in the program. Attorney Shlomi Rachvi, who represents many of the soldiers, said that most had learned at an institution connected with former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu. Most of the soldiers went to learn without intending to receive a rise in salary," said Rachvi. "They were later misled by the institutions in which they studied." A former chief rabbinate employee familiar with the case said in response that the story was over six years old and kept on being recycled. "The soldiers and police learned Torah," said the source. "The IDF and the Chief Rabbinate agreed to recognize that [study]. I don't know what all the fuss is about." The IDF issued a response saying that rabbinical studies were chosen by the individual and not by the army and therefore the study institutions were never monitored by the IDF. The diplomas recognized by the military are issued by certain institutions and in some cases by the career soldiers themselves. The military stressed that it has been carrying out a detailed probe into the career soldiers' eligibility to get the bonus. The army also decided to freeze acknowledgment of rabbinical studies until the case is disentangled.