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      Group for Soldiers’ Well-Being Marks 70 Years

      The Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers marks its 70th year this week with an exhibition of rare photos from IDF archives.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 12/25/2012, 11:33 AM

       Bus shelter for soldiers sponsored by AWIS
      Bus shelter for soldiers sponsored by AWIS
      Israel news photo: IDF

      The Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers (AWIS) marks its 70th year this week with an exhibition of rare photos from IDF archives.

      The organization is dedicated to the welfare of soldiers and giving them recognition forf their service to the state.

      The main event will take place this week led by the Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, who will deliver his congratulations alongside AWIS chairman Brig. Gen. (res.) Avigdor Kahalani.  

      The event will include the presentation of an historical exhibition including posters and rare photographs taken from the IDF and security forces' archives. The pictures, reflecting the early years of the association, will appear alongside current photographs.

      "We turned to the IDF archives and found some amazing pictures which mark the association's activities over the years," said Kahalani. "The decision to celebrate 70 years of the association was not easy because of financial considerations, but I insisted on it. Because of that, though, we decided on a modest celebration."

      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 centers where they would provide regular updates about events in Israel.

      During the pre-state period, it assisted soldiers by establishing funds to provide loans, distributed holiday gifts to soldiers, set up recreation facilities and held cultural events. Immigrant soldiers were entitled to special benefits such as tax exemptions, medical aid and personal equipment.  

      The organization has been known by its current name since 1982. Over the years, AWIS has provided vast support to IDF soldiers in meeting their aid and welfare needs, including establishing communal lounges and providing assistance to hospitalized soldiers.

      Today, AWIS is the leading organization providing assistance to IDF soldiers. Donors in Israel and abroad are the main source of funding for the organization, which maintains 16 homes for lone soldiers and a resort for soldiers. In 2011, 170 million NIS were transferred to IDF soldiers through AWIS.

      During last month’s 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 major activities include supporting lone soldiers and soldiers from economically disadvantaged families, and providing consumer benefits, scholarships and emergency assistance.

      "The public doesn't always know what we do," Kahalani said, "but our presence inside the IDF is absolute. We are there at every turn."