Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers
The Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers (Ha'aguda Lema'an Hachayal) also known as the 'Association for the Welfare of Soldiers in Israel' and 'Association for the Welfare of the Soldier' is an organisation established in 1942 by David Ben-Gurion. The organisation provides the following description of its role on its website:
- “The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) provide for the soldier's military needs. We provide soldiers with the loving care and support they need through a range of recreation, welfare and educational services and facilities designed to enhance their wellbeing in service.” 
AWIS is headquartered in Tel Aviv and maintains regional offices in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Beer Sheba. According to the organisation it has eighty branches throughout the country.
AWIS's current activities include the awarding of scholarships to IDF soldiers in collaboration with the Blavatnik Family Scholarship Foundation the maintenance of homes for lone soldiers (soldiers without families in Israel), provision of vacation homes, hospital services, recreational facilities  and the distristribution of Hanukkah gifts to soldiers. 
The pre-state organisation founded by Ben-Gurion, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Council was known as the 'Committee for the Jewish Soldier', first headed by Yosef Baratz. The organisation was initially devoted to the welfare of Jewish soldiers fighting for the Allies during WWII:
- An organization for the welfare of Jewish soldiers was first established by the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Council in 1942. When Jewish soldiers joined the ranks of the British military during the Second World War, the organization worked to meet the welfare needs of the soldiers both in Israel and Europe. The organization accompanied the soldiers in training camps overseas and provided them with blankets, warm clothing, and culture and news areas to provide regular updates about events in Israel.
- During the pre-state period, the organization assisted soldiers by establishing funds to assist with loans, distributed holiday gifts to soldiers, set up recreation facilities and held cultural events. Additionally, immigrant soldiers were entitled to special benefits such as tax exemptions, medical aid, and personal equipment. The organization's work was carried out in the major cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, as well as at local branches throughout Israel, bringing together volunteers from the various Jewish communities throughout the land.  
The earliest reference to AWIS in the English language press is a notice in PR Newswire referring to the efforts of AWIS (then referred to as the 'Association for the Welfare of Soldiers in Israel') to bring American celebrities to entertain Israeli soldiers during the early phases of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon (Operation Peace for Galilee):
- Sammy Davis, Jr. will be leaving for Israel July 12 as part of Operation "Shalom to Israel '82" in which celebrities have been invited by El Al Israel Airlines and the Association for the Welfare of Soldiers in Israel to visit and entertain Israeli soldiers at hospitals and bases in northern Israel. Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, George Segal and others have already participated, and plans are currently underway to organize visits by Danny Kaye, Peter Strauss, Kirk Douglas, Milton Berle, Liza Minelli, Mickey Rooney and Walter Matthau.
Jane Fonda's week-long visit with her husband Tom Hayden included visits to occupied Lebanese cities. During their trip they denounced the PLO as a "terrorist" organisation. Hayden commented during the trip that the PLO through its 'tragic refusal to recognize Israel's existence as being compatible with Palestinian nationalism, by its repeated calls for annihilation of the Zionist state and by its use of terrorism, has made the current Israeli response inevitable...'
In 2006 Hayden repudiated his stance on the Lebanon war and expressed regret regarding his visit to Lebanon. Hayden described the Israeli sponsored visit to Lebanon in the context of his efforts to improve his standing with the Jewish community in California, in order to enhance the prospects of his being elected to the California State Assembly:
- Twenty-five years ago I stared into the eyes of Michael Berman, chief operative for his congressman-brother, Howard Berman. I was a neophyte running for the California Assembly in a district that the Bermans claimed belonged to them.
- 'I represent the Israeli defense forces,' Michael said. I thought he was joking. He wasn't. Michael seemed to imagine himself the gatekeeper protecting Los Angeles Westside for Israel's political interests, and those of the famous Berman-Waxman machine. Since Jews represented one-third of the Democratic district's primary voters, Berman held a balance of power.
In 2011 a public committee headed by former chair of the Israel Securities Authority, Arie Mientkavich issued a report that was highly critical of AWIS. The report accused the organisation of having a bloated infrastructure and of spending too much money on remunerating employees rather than on assisting IDF soldiers. The report recommended the dismantling of both AWIS and the Libi Fund and the creation of a civilian agency to replace those organisations. However it was subsequently reported that, contrary to the recommendations of the panel, the Israeli Defense Ministry would not dissolve AWIS but would instead establish a new organisation alongside AWIS within which the Libi Fund would be subsumed. Mientkavich reportedly stated that the high remuneration for AWIS employees amounted to the usurpation of public funds since the Israeli Defense Ministry is a major funder of AWIS.
As of March 2015 AWIS and the Libi Fund continue to operate as the vehicles through which donations to the IDF pass.
AWIS was one of a number of companies allegedly defrauded by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Rishontours Affair.
Aiding IDF Operations
During Operation Cast Lead in 2008 AWIS reportedly distributed NIS 4 million in donation along with 30,000 personal welfare kits.
According to the IDF during Operation Pillar of Defense AWIS was 'deployed alongside IDF soldiers with the goal of providing for the welfare of the soldiers in the field.':
- Through close cooperation with the Manpower Directorate, southern region AWIS staff managed to raise hundreds of thousands of shekels and provided 30 thousand packages of clothing and personal items to IDF soldiers. "The association's workers and volunteers worked above and beyond throughout the operation and I am very satisfied," Brig. Gen. (res.) Kahalani said. "At times like these we have no concept of "off-hours"—we work as much as is required".
During Operation Protective Edge AWIS distributed NIS 16 million to IDF soldiers.
The quotations and the activities listed below are taken from the AWIS website.
- AWIS has been responsible for the establishment of scores of
- recreational facilities on IDF bases throughout Eretz Yisrael. These include sports
- centers, gymnasia, club rooms, auditoria, heritage rooms, classrooms and synagogues.
- We provide the necessary means for the IDF to create these facilities. These projects
- range from the provision of some small leisure room in which combat soldiers can
- relax, to the renovation and building of soldier's homes, and education centers in
- choice locations.
Rest and Recreation Resorts
- The purpose of our resort centers is to host "fun" days and other recreational events.
- There are also facilities for vacations for combat troops in need of a rest from their
- grueling duties. The atmosphere allows them to unwind from the tension of their
- everyday stresses. The centers provide comfortable rooms, good food, and leisure and
- sports facilities for the well-being of our soldiers.
- These homes provide comfortable lodgings for soldiers with no family, or where there
- is no accommodation on a base, also for soldiers in transit, or for soldiers on leave
- with nowhere to go. AWIS operates eight of these facilities; in Kyriat Shmona,
- Tiberias, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ramat, Gan, Jerusalem, Beer Sheba, and Eilat. They
- provide a home, food and recreational facilities to the all alone soldier.
- the IDF is made up of a very diverse population... There are
- secular and observant, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, town dwellers and kibbutz or moshav
- children. All have their own cultural background and levels of education. Each of
- these groups has a different educational need to reach a level that will afford any
- individual equal opportunity for advancement in the army and subsequent integration
- into the civilian population... the Education centers operated by AWIS include courses in Hebrew language,
- preparatory courses for school matriculation, and pre-army introduction courses, and
- Picnic tables and benches have been set up in IDF bases in shady corners to provide a
- pleasant environment for family visits at weekends or holydays. They are also used by
- soldiers to relax and hangout with their comrades.
Clubrooms, Gymnasia, Synagogues
- In smaller bases where there in is no permanent recreational facility, AWIS has
- provided small clubrooms, gyms and synagogues for combat soldiers. We appreciate
- the soldier's need for a way to relax from their stressful occupation often under
- extreme conditions. These facilities maybe just small structures or even mobile units
- that can be moved to different locations as required. For a religious individual to be
- able to pray in the right environment is both a "mitzvah" and a source of spiritual
- uplifting. Just to be able to relax and listen to music or watch TV in a clubroom at a
- primitive outpost is invaluable for a soldier's mental state and wellbeing.
- At strategic crossroads, AWIS operates canteens to provide free refreshments and
- drinks to soldiers in transit from one place to another. They are staffed by local
- In an attempt to strengthen the bond between corporate business or a specific
- community both here or abroad, the aim of this project is to link a business or
- community directly with a particular part of the IDF. This may be in sponsoring
- anything from a unit of the IDF up to adoption of a whole battalion. This adoption
- could finance all the recreational activities of that battalion for anything from a year
- up to three years depending on the size of the donation or contribution. For a unit, the
- contribution would be smaller. Some of the donation could be specifically put aside
- for use as emergency aid to help an underprivileged soldier.
In August 2011 Israel's national airline - El Al - announced that it would be adopting the IDF Paratrooper Battalion 202 for a period of three years:
- As part of the adoption, EL AL will contribute money to the “basket” of wellbeing services of the paratrooper battalion; the funds are earmarked for the soldiers’ welfare and for offering financial assistance to soldiers in distress.
- In addition, EL AL maintains direct contact with the battalion’s officers and soldiers, inviting them to airline events, offering discharged soldiers employment in the company’s many occupational frameworks, assisting soldiers who are on special leave and hosting groups of soldiers at the EL AL compound to deepen the ties and familiarize them the airline’s daily activities.
In conjunction with the IDIF AWIS also runs the Adopt a Fighter project which facilitates the adoption of combat units by Israeli companies:
- Aside from the monetary donation to the units, the adopting companies find various ways to aid the soldiers and strengthen the bonds between the companies and the troops. The bond finds expression through various joint events (recreational activities with the soldiers, sport activities, etc.), adoption of lone soldiers, aid to immigrant and lone soldiers, providing temporary work to soldiers whose families have experienced financial distress, and countless other initiatives launched by both the battalions and the companies.
In April 2015 the Electronic Intifada reported that the French telecoms company Orange has adopted the Ezuz armoured company and the Shachar search and rescue unit. The report further stated that Orange had waived call fees for soldiers in the Gaza area during the assault on the Gaza strip. The story further noted that according to a report in the Hebrew press Orange sent mobile units to troops to provide them with batteries, chargers and other assistance. Reportedly Orange staff visited Israeli soldiers in hospital to hand out tablet computers.
- Combat soldiers are the mainstay of the country's defense. AWIS provides them with
- a five day annual holiday in its recreational resorts where they can enjoy leisure
- activities that allow them to unwind and recharge their batteries following their
- arduous daily operations and training.
Vacations for IDF Bereaved
- Nearly 23,000 soldiers have sacrificed their lives in the defense of the Jewish
- homeland. AWIS recognizes the pain and sense of loss of the people and families left
- behind, the widows, orphans, and parents. AWIS maintains close contact with them
- and endeavors to ease the pain of families who have lost a member in the course of
- their service and have to live with the loss everyday of the year. AWIS provides an
- annual vacation for bereaved families.
Impact Scholarship Program
- AWIS, thanks to its money raising activities, is able to offer scholarships to former
- combat soldiers from underprivileged families. The scholarships are up to $4000 per
- year for a period of 4 years at an institute of higher education in Israel. The Impact"
- program provides an opportunity for personal advancement that otherwise would not
- have been available. The soldier is required to undertake 120 hours of voluntary
- service annually as repayment. As of next year the project is fully funded by the US.
Young Soldier Scholarships
- This program funds tuition for underprivileged students at an IDF boarding or day
- school to the tune of $1000 per year through grades 9-12. This program has the
- advantage of being able to cultivate career soldiers of the future in a pre-military
- educational environment.
President's Scholarships for Outstanding Soldiers
- Every year, at the residence of the Israeli president on Independence Day, 120
- outstanding soldiers are awarded scholarships worth NIS4000 in a special ceremony.
- These are for use after the soldier's discharge to study an approved course.
- AWIS also awards outstanding IDF musicians scholarships of between NIS 1,500-
- 4,000 to attend master-classes held in Israel.
Aid for Underprivileged Soldiers
- This project provides support to IDF soldiers in severe financial distress. It provides
- special grants, furniture and electrical appliances for the home, food vouchers, and
- gift coupons for the "Chagim".
The All-alone Soldier
- The IDF has a number of soldiers who have no immediate family here in Israel. This
- group includes new immigrants, orphans, sons and daughters of Israeli parents living
- abroad, and Israeli born soldiers estranged from their families.
- AWIS provides an aid package that includes a "home" to which he or she may return.
- It also includes free accommodation during leave, Passover "Seder" at an IDF
- recreational center, and gift vouchers at "Hanukah". Lone combat soldiers are
- provided with international telephone call-cards, and airfare for a visit to their parents
- living overseas at least once during their compulsory service.
- AWIS runs two warehouses in the north of the country. They offer aid to thousands of
- underprivileged soldiers annually by providing canned foods, oil, sugar, tea, coffee,
- pasta, rice, toiletries, underclothing, bed linen, and towels, wherever there is genuine
- A small gift and a gesture of sympathy and concern mean a lot to a wounded soldier.
- Our volunteers are by the side of every wounded soldier from the first day of their
- injury. They visit them in hospital and see to it that all possible care and attention is
- lavished upon the injured. They supply all the encouragement and sympathy needed to
- expedite a speedy and full recovery. AWIS will, when necessary, pay for a flight of a
- lone soldier's parent to be at the bedside when most needed.
- In times of emergency, AWIS distributes packages with candies,
- toiletries, underclothes, board games, and other amenities to IDF combat troops on the
- front line of a military operation. This "mitzvah" really boosts the spirits of the
- fighters defending our homeland and is an invaluable morale-booster.
- Enlisting for compulsory military service at the age of eighteen is a huge milestone in
- the life of every eligible Israeli, both male and female. They dedicate themselves to
- defend and guard their homeland. AWIS makes sure they are welcomed at induction
- bases, where they receive a personal gift.
- Soldiers are entitled to discounts at approved outlets by presentation of a Yoter credit
- card. In IDF bases throughout the country, Shiklit soldier's canteens sell refreshments, fast
- foods, cigarettes, and toiletries, and operate vending machines all at a significant
- Brigadier-general (res.) Avigdor Kahalani - Chairman
- Ilan Tal - President and CEO
- Arik Ben-Ari - Representative of AWIS for Europe
- Rishon Letzion - former Vice Chairman
- Joseph Landow - Co-Founder
- David Maimon - former CEO
- Reuben Barkatt - General Secretary Committee for the Jewish Soldier
In 2011 the Mientkavich panel reported that AWIS had a budget of around 450 million shekels a year. Of that budget the report stated that 40 percent was provided by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and a further third coming from the Israeli Defense Ministry. The panel characterised AWIS as 'a pipeline for the transfer of contributions raised by others abroad, most importantly Friends of the IDF in the United States.' According to the IDF 170 million shekels were distributed to IDF soldiers via AWIS in 2011.
AWIS receives most of its donations via supporting organisations in the United States and Panama (FIDF – Friends of the IDF), the UK (UK Friends of AWIS), Canada (The Association for the Soldiers of Israel), and Mexico. (The Mexican Association for Soldiers of the IDF). The Association has also received funding from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
World Association branches
- Address Circa 2015:
- 60 Weizmann Street
- Tel Aviv 62155
- Website: http://www.awis.org.il
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/awisisrael
- Phone 972-(0)72-270-2199
- Fax 972-3-5464249
- 'About Us', Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers website, accessed 12 September 2014
- AWIS Website Ha'aguda Lema'an Hachayal. Accessed 5 March 2015.
- Greer Ray Cashman, 'Thanks to those who protect us, we can celebrate Independence Day in years ahead', Jerusalem Post, 7 May 2014.
- Greer Ray Cashman, 'The 'Yekke' connection', Jerusalem Post, 28 December 2012.
- 'Chanukah Gift Vouchers for 10,000 IDF Soldiers', Marketwire, 27 December 2011.
- Israel Defense Forces Website Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers celebrates 70 years. Accessed 22 March 2015.
- Barry Davis, 'Soldiers' well being on the wall', Jerusalem Post, 28 December 2012
- Greer Fay Cashman, 'The 'Yekke' Connection', Jerusalem Post, 28 December 2012
- PEF, 60th Annual Report, 1982.
- Staff, 'July 9, 1982, Friday', PR Newswire, 9 July 1982
- Staff, 'Fonda and Hayden score PLO, civilian suffering', United Press International, 3 July 1982
- Tom Hayden, 'Things Come ‘Round in Mideast', truthdig.com,18 July 2006, accessed 23 March 2015
- Shuki Sadeh, 'The Israeli army's big, green donation machine', Haaretz, 25 April 2014
- Shuki Sadeh, 'The Israeli army's big, green donation machine', Haaretz, 25 April 2014
- Gili Cohen, 'Defense Ministry delaying reform in fundraising for IDF', Haaretz, 13 November 2013
- Noam Sharvit, 'Israel Police recommends indicting Olmert', Globes [Online], 7 September 2008.
- Lidar Grave-Lazi, 'News in Brief', Jerusalem Post, 7 August 2014
- Greer Fay Cashman, 'In his grandfather's footsteps', Jerusalem Post, 11 April, 2014.
- EL AL Website EL AL Adopts Soldiers. Accessed 5 March 2015.
- 'IDF combat units adopted by leading commercial companies as part of the adopt a fighter project led by the AWIS, State News Service, 21 June, 2012.
- Electronic Intifada How Orange telecom supported Israel’s massacre in Gaza. Accessed 12 April 2015.
- Shuki Sadeh, 'The Israeli army's big, green donation machine', Haaretz, 25 April 2014
- Greer Fay Cashman, 'Golani Tribute', Jerusalem Post, 8 August 2014
- Jessica Elgot, 'El Al's fundraising for IDF wellbeing day', Jewish Chronicle Online,15 December 2009, accessed 4 February 2015
- 'Key Strategic Partners', Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers website, accessed 5 March 2015
- 'World Association Branches', Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers website, accessed 5 March 2015