Major Restructuring Streamlines Donations for Israeli Soldiers

weblinkIn an effort to ensure that donations to Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers are best utilized and fairly distributed to all units top 10 Best Laptops for Gaming, Israel’s Ministry of Defense called for the merging of two of its most dedicated organisations.

The LIBI Fund, established in 1980 by Prime Minister Menachem Begin and then IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, provided for the educational, religious, medical and recreational needs of Israeli soldiers which fell out of the IDF’s budget.  

The Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers (AWIS), founded nearly 74 years ago, also promoted the wellbeing of soldiers in the areas of recreation, education, culture, and provided for the operation of operating Soldiers’ Homes, clubs and centers.

“Despite people’s best intents to support IDF soldiers, these two Israeli organizations were basically duplicating work, causing inefficiency,” explained Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, to Breaking Israel News. “Last time I was in Israel, I sat with Brigadier General Yehiel Gozal, CEO of The LIBI Fund who explained the merger to me. We are very comfortable with this new direction and continue to be committed to strengthening support for IDF soldiers.”

This merger has been in the works for several years, following the Gaza Strip war in the in southern Israel in 2005. During the war, many collections for IDF soldiers popped-up to meet various needs. Money was collected for pizza, toothpaste, underwear, socks and more out of a sincere desire to help both the soldiers and the Ministry of Defense.

However, without an official organization overseeing these efforts, it became clear to the IDF that some units were receiving too much and others were not receiving anything at all. In addition, some funds were misallocated as there was no one overseeing what was happening in the field. The Ministry of Defense recognized that there was a need to get a better handle on the situation.

It has been official Israeli law that IDF soldiers can only receive gifts and extras outside of standard IDF supplies through either The LIBI Fund or AWIS. With this merger, the organizations have now received one name along with clearly defined responsibilities.

Now called in Hebrew Yachad L’Ma’an HaChayal (Together for the Soldiers), The LIBI Fund has the sole responsibility for raising money and AWIS is handling operations, such as the needs of soldiers on bases, recreation centers, buying gifts and extras, etc.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu originally nominated highly trusted, respected and beloved Major General Yoram Yair as Chairman over The LIBI Fund portion of the merger. However, the Ministry of Defense then asked Yair to chair both. Yair asked Gozal to be CEO of The LIBI Fund and has since merged the Board of Directors of both organizations as well.

“This merger has already saved the IDF an enormous amount of money,” shared Gozal. “Everyone now follows a clear chain of command for filling unit needs. Commanders send a list of needs. LIBI is then clear where to send donations to fulfill those requests.”

In another creative move from Gozal, the Brigadier General moved from hiring staff to make fundraising phone calls to having retired IDF soldiers volunteer their time to contact donors. “We have soldiers between the ages of 45-80 personally calling donors,” said Gozal. “People are excited to speak with real IDF soldiers and the soldiers are happy to help a cause so close to their hearts. It is a win win situation all around.”

Another benefit of the merger is that the Ministry of Defense now covers all administrative costs ensuring that all donations made to LIBI go to their intended purpose, to help Israeli soldiers. “LIBI USA was not directly affected by this merger,” continued Grossman. “We are continuing our efforts to raise needed funds to help all soldiers to have their needs met. However, it is wonderful that donations will now be able to serve our soldiers even more through this more efficient system.”


Efforts Intensify to Build Crucial Fitness Center for IDF Soldiers in Northern Israel

As Israel’s northern border remains a hotbed of potential attacks and infiltration from Lebanon and Syria, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) remain on high-alert 24/7. The intensity of the IDF’s work to protect Israel and its citizens in this area puts added physical and emotional stress on soldiers.

“Soldiers serving in the north are on high alert for the duration of their service,” explained Shimshon Erenfeld, Vice Chairman of LIBI USA, the official charity of the IDF which helps fund educational and medical needs of soldiers not covered by the army’s regular budget. “Especially for female soldiers assigned to computer surveillance of Israel’s borders, their repetitive work places a large demand on their bodies.”
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“My duty in the IDF was computer surveillance,” shared Beth Finkelstein. “We were required to sit for four hour stretches without moving our heads at all right or left. We worked shifts of four hours on and four hours off all day. Though our job was crucial to Israel’s security, it was also very draining, tiring and stressful. It is difficult to stay focused for such extended amounts of time. It put a strain on us physically and emotionally.”

Female soldiers are almost exclusively are assigned computer surveillance work. They are trained to recognize on their computer screens the difference between acceptable routine activities on Israel’s borders and acts which might compromise Israel’s security, potential infiltration or terrorist activities.

“The work could get grueling,” continued Finkelstein. “Therefore, in order to be allowed to go on leave, the army required us to workout a minimum of two times per week.”

Finkelstein noted that this was easier said than done since soldiers work long, exhausting hours. “Often, we finished work at night and there was no place acceptable to exercise,” she continued. “We had to find a way to fit in workouts that would not only fulfill army requirements but also do the job of easing our physical and emotional stress. At night, we weren’t allowed to go out for a workout. It was hard to find a way to exercise with our crazy schedule.”

Several years ago, LIBI helped fund a makeshift fitness center at a Golan Heights army base. Though helpful to many soldiers, it is housed in a caravan without air-conditioning. On a recent visit to the base by Erenfeld, it became clear that, with its limited size and extreme temperatures, a permanent fitness center with proper amenities was in order.

The new fitness center is expected to remedy this pressing problem. It is designed to be a safe, well equipped and welcoming place to go, day or night. “With about 200 soldiers living on base and an additional 600 coming daily for medical treatments and services, we know that the fitness center will be an appreciated and well-used facility,” added Erenfeld.

IDF soldiers on the northern border are faced with risky challenges everyday. In addition to maintaining security, they are responsible for providing a tremendous amount of humanitarian aid. Syrian refugees are often brought in and out of Israeli hospitals. They also help Syrian children who have lost their families due to the war. Additionally, in conjunction with the UN, the army provides food, water, gas for generators, medicine and medical care.

It is expected that the fitness center will help make soldier time-off more productive and keep their physical and emotional health in much better condition by minimizing the long term damage to spines and other body parts caused by their taxing work.

“I, myself, served in the IDF,” said Erenfeld . “Through my personal experience and my work with LIBI USA, which strives to maintain a strong and direct relationship with Israeli army units, we understand that building this fitness center is a top priority. Army base officers and soldiers have requested that LIBI help the soldiers in this way as they have very difficult and challenging tasks.”