The IDF has refused a NIS 420,000 ($116,000) donation from the Bayit Ham Association, claiming it does not conform to the military's conditions, Ynet has discovered.
"The army chooses to ignore the soldiers and be insensitive to their needs out of incomprehensible reasons," said Shifra Shahar, CEO of the association, which aids needy and lone soldiers.
For the last five years Bayit Ham has been collecting donations for needy soldiers and their families. "This is our only goal," Shahar explained. "These are soldiers and families who desperately need this money; they have no other way through the holidays and they expect it eagerly. For them, this paltry sum is like a breath of air for a drowning man."
This year's donations were exceptionally generous, enough for a NIS 500 ($139) coupon for every soldier, 10-times more than in previous years.
According to the IDF's guidelines, private associations are required to confirm donations to soldiers through the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers (AWIS) or through the Libi Fund. About 10 days ago Shahar appealed the Libi Fund with a request for a "donation confirmation" for NIS 420,000 to be given to some 1,000 soldiers in 10 different units, but was, to her surprise, denied.
The IDF and Shahar held prolonged negotiations, in the course of which the IDF clarified the maximum sum every soldier can receive is NIS 250 ($69), and that the remainder of the donation should be distributed in other units.
Shahar claims that the IDF is attempting to control which units get the donation. The IDF denied the allegation and said it aims to prevent discrimination among soldiers and units.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit stated that "To meet the needs of as many units as possible the donations are channeled according to regular standards and a comprehensive IDF plan which determines a donation sum for every soldier.
"The IDF guidelines determine that a donor can ask that his donation be given to a certain unit only if this transfer accords with the predetermined standards and needs of all units. It should be noted that at no stage was a donation request denied, not even in this case; the guideline was merely clarified to the donators."
An IDF source added that "the aim was not to control the identity of the units, but only to distribute the remainder to additional units so as not to discriminate between soldiers."
The same source stressed that the army was not aware that the coupons were already purchased. "Had we known we would have found a solution," he said.
Dr. Yehuda Stav, president of the association, was shocked at the IDF's response. "This is utterly absurd. There's no reason to the IDF's position. This is the first time I'm in opposition to the IDF, but we have no choice. The IDF is pushing us, with no other course of action, to turn to the media and cry for help."
David, a decorated major in reserve service, told Ynet: "The conditions posed by the army are unreasonable. Through all the years of the association's activity we've never encountered such opposition, especially when it comes to such an urgent need."
According to him, "the clock is ticking. There are a 1,000 soldiers and families who have no money to celebrate the holidays."
David even appealed the prime minister in a letter. "I believe that perhaps turning to him will bring this ridiculous situation to an end," he said.
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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