“And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said: ‘Here am I; send me.’” Isaiah 6:8 (The Israel Bible™)
For over a decade, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has offered companies, groups and individuals the chance to “Adopt-a-Battalion”. This unique program builds deep and lasting relationships between IDF soldiers and civilians who support them.
“Adopt-a-Battalion is a significant way for people to share in the safety and success of the State of Israel,” stated Brigadier General Yehiel Gozal, CEO of Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers, to Breaking Israel News. “Extraordinary bonds are built between IDF combat soldiers and civilians through this program.”
Those wishing to adopt a battalion make a significant commitment to the welfare of Israeli soldiers. Donors must agree to give 100,000 NIS (about $27,000) annually for three years. Not only does the adoption of a battalion increase army morale and help the well-being of soldiers, but it also builds a true bond between donors and soldiers.
“Donors are invited to an emotional Adopt-a-Battalion ceremony,” continued Gozal. “They receive direct communication with commanders including reports on their battalion, soldier progress, updates about activities done through the adoption, pictures, personal letters from soldiers, gifts bearing the battalion’s insignia and opportunities to join soldiers on bases and during their vacation time.”
Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers works hand in hand with the Israeli government and the Ministry of Defense to fill in the financial and social gaps of the IDF budget. 100 percent of donations go directly to helping the IDF, something unheard of in the world of nonprofits.
Adopted battalions receive the funds along with a list of permitted areas where the money may be used. In an unusual decree unique to the Holy Land, before any money can be spent on the battalion, the unit must earmark 15 percent to helping their fellow comrades in arms.
“The Israeli army is made up of soldiers from every socio-economic walk of life,” Gozal explained to Breaking Israel News. “We not only teach people how to fight and protect the Land of Israel, we also teach how to care for every individual. This includes thinking of those who have less.”
This 15 percent is considered tzedakah, or charity, a Biblical command to open one’s hand to the needy. “There are thousands of lone soldiers in the IDF,” continued Gozal. “There are also many soldiers who come from struggling homes and those who fall into the ‘grey area’, who struggle but do not receive government assistance. This tzedakah helps many soldiers who have not yet been adopted.”
Over the years, several Israeli companies, including Israeli banks and Teva Pharmaceuticals, have adopted a battalion. With the deep relationships developed through this program, soldiers are often invited to work at these companies during their off-times and after their service is completed, allowing them to earn much-needed money as well as ensuring a better future in the job market.
For his Bar Mitzvah, 13-year-old Gavin Mitchell adopted the “Black Snake” Israel Air-Force squadron. Through this program, he visited an Israeli army base along with his family. “There are still many battalions which need adopting,” noted Gozal. “Not every individual has the funds for this three-year commitment. However, it is possible for companies and places of worship to join forces and help the IDF in a significant way.”
Israelis understand from a very early age that they must protect their homeland from enemies within and those who surround their country. They are willing to place their own lives on the line to protect their land and her citizens. IDF soldiers are granted both financial and emotional support through the Adopt-a-Battalion program, forming lasting bonds between soldiers and donors and providing confidence that their self-sacrifices are recognized and appreciated.