Thursday, September 25, 2008

Caring For Israels Finest

LIBI, meaning "My Heart", is a special private fund that was established to provide assistance and services to serving in the Israel Defense Forces, otherwise known as the IDF. Funds received by LIBI are used to assist soldiers in a number of ways, including educational programs, medical assistance programs, assistance for lone or "boded" soldiers who immigrated to Israel without their immediate families, and have no place to go when on leave. The money raised by LIBI volunteers helps augment the already strained defense budget of Israel's government, which simply cannot provide the needed services and assistance that organizations like LIBI can provide.

With the Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur holidays soon upon us, the assistance provided by LIBI to immigrant soldiers helps them to participate Israel's major Jewish holidays. LIBI provides gift parcels for the soldiers which include clothing, toiletries, sweets, and other personal items as well as giving financial assistance to help the young soldiers pay for renting rooms and group apartments to enable them to feel that they are with "family". The Organization also helps the soldiers with finding places to stay with families in order to truly feel part of Israeli society.

And for soldiers who come form poor families, LIBI also helps provide financial assistance, including food vouchers, increased monthly pay, and special loans and grants to not only assist the soldiers, but help their families too.

LIBI also provides for needed medical equipment in hospitals and other medical facilities that care for soldiers, not only in time of war, but in the event of serious injury or illness. Funds donated by contributors abroad recently enabled the purchase to two ambulances to transport soldiers from their bases to hospitals for needed medical treatment. Medical aid raised by LIBI volunteers helped considerably during the 2006 War in Lebanon, when IDF solders suffered numerous casualties, requiring immediate medical attention. A special medical center to treat wounded and sick IDF solders was inaugurated at the Medical Corps Base in Beer Sheva. The center not only includes a modern surgical and convalescent treatment facility, but a complete dental treatment unit as well. LIBI also helped a special rehabilitation center at the Tzriffin Army base, outside of Tel Aviv. This center includes a special orthopedic treatment and convalescence unit to treat IDF soldiers to recover from serious orthopedic injuries.

One might think that it is easy to solicit enough funds to provide for these projects. In reality, LIBI personnel and volunteers must work very hard to solicit and receive the necessary funds, both in Israel and abroad. This work includes annual fund raising campaigns as well and special fund raising projects during the year. Although large sums of money are occasionally received from individuals and groups abroad, the LIBI fund receives most of its funds from small contributions from individuals and families. These amounts can be anywhere from the equivalent of 3 to 5 dollars, and even small donations are greatly appreciated. As was said once by Yizhak Rabin, an IDF Chief of Staff from 1964 to 68 and twice Israel's prime minister:

"Our soldiers prevail not by the strength of their weapons but by their sense of mission; by their consciousness of the justness of their cause, by a deep love for their country, and by their understanding of the heavy task laid upon them: to ensure the existence of our people in their homeland and to affirm, even at the cost of their lives, the right of the Jewish people to live their lives in their own state, free, independent and in peace"

Oketz Dog Wars

War Dogs

When Israeli army units go into battle, or on patrol, Man's Best Friends often go with them. In fact, these canine members of a special unit known as OKETZ (Hebrew for sting) have been so successful that when they are killed in action they are buried in special military cemeteries and receive full military honors.

Although dogs have been used by the Israeli military and police units for some time (police have their own K-9 units which are similar to those in the USA and other countries), the present format of the Oketz units have proven themselves to be invaluable in both locating explosives and other dangerous objects, as well as locating terrorists and other enemy persons during patrols into areas such as Gaza and the West Bank, not to mention during wartime. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Oketz unit dogs were invaluable in finding explosives as well as during night patrols into enemy territory. Although several different kinds of dogs have been used for this kind of duty, including Rottweilers and German Shepherds, the most suitable breed is the Malinois or Belgian Shepherd, due to it's size, short fur, and color.

Belgian Shepherd pups are chosen at an early age and sent to special training schools which last several months. During this training period, each dog is assigned to a soldier who has also undergone a special preliminary training course prior to being assigned his or her "buddy". Both dogs and their handler literally live and work together and form a close bond with each other. This relationship becomes so close that both animal and human literally depend on each other for survival when on duty.
Often, the dog becomes the personal pet of his trainer after leaving active duty.

When an Oketz dog is killed during a patrol or other operation, they are buried in a special pet cemetery located in the central part of the country. The cemetery is a special memorial place for these fury heroes, and includes a special inscription at the cemetery entrance, that translated into English reads: Walk softly, for here lie soldiers of Israel. On each miniature tombstone is inscribed the dog's name, date of death, and that the dog died during military action.

The use of these dogs has become so successful that they are hated by Arab in areas where the dogs are often sent on patrol, due to the Arab's frequent acts of violence during political and similar demonstrations, especially in the West Bank. Despite the occasional controversies surrounding their use, these brave "dogs of war" have proven their value time and time again, and have saved many human lives. Their use by the Israeli military will continue to be an outstanding contribution to helping to preserve the future of the State of Israel. - Headlines