At Knesset, reservist decries lack of aid as businesses fail while they fight in Gaza

‘My situation is a catastrophe. The refrigerator is empty,’ Lior Moshayev tells Knesset Finance Committee. ‘We left everything to go and fight’

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Reservist Lior Moshayev (L) testifies before the Knesset's Finance Committee on December 25, 2023 (video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Reservist Lior Moshayev (L) testifies before the Knesset's Finance Committee on December 25, 2023 (video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The ongoing war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip has been financially devastating for many reservist soldiers who left their businesses to languish when they responded to mobilization orders, lawmakers heard on Monday. Reservists told the Knesset Finance Committee that businesses have collapsed due to a lack of government assistance while they were out in the field.

While reservists are paid a salary for their time serving, this has often proved woefully insufficient for business owners whose untended enterprises have fallen into debt or crashed entirely. Special funds have been earmarked to support such businesses, but the committee heard Monday that many are still not receiving the help they need.

Some soldiers have been unable to file requests for assistance while serving in Gaza, while others have yet to receive answers to their requests, soldiers and government representatives told the committee.

“My situation is a catastrophe,” testified Lior Moshayev, a supermarket owner from Beersheba who until a few days ago was fighting in Gaza’s Shejaiya terror hotspot, and who may be going back in.

“I’m afraid to swipe my credit card to buy [baby formula] for my daughter. The refrigerator is empty. I did not receive any grant. I risk my life every day. Bullets pass over my head. I risk my life to protect you and everyone.

“Is there anyone else here whose refrigerator is empty, any of you who have not received a salary?” he demanded, still in uniform, of lawmakers. “We didn’t think twice. We left everything on that first day [October 7]. We left our families, we abandoned our businesses and we went [to fight].”

When asked by a representative of the Tax Authority why he had not previously filed a claim for compensation, Moshayev responded that he had not been permitted to take a cellphone into Gaza and was unable to do so until his return.

Moshayev’s case represents “what is happening in the whole system,” committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni declared, demanding an answer “within a day” as to how “this young man, who is risking his life, has not received what he should have received.”

Over 360,000 Israelis were called up for reserve duty in the wake of Hamas’s unprecedented assault on October 7, which left over 1,200 people dead and more than 240 in captivity in the Gaza Strip.

Since then, reservists and their families have begun to campaign to receive help to prevent their businesses collapsing. In many cases, spouses were left alone to care for children — sometimes with schools and kindergartens closed due to the war, depending on the area — and were unable to work for months.

Israeli Infantry reservists seen during a light arms training in northern Golan Heights before heading south to the Gaza Strip on October 8, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Following the unprecedented mobilization and its financial aftershocks, the Knesset last month approved a wartime compensation package worth an estimated NIS 15 billion ($3.9 billion) to help businesses continue operating. The program included grants to businesses across the country that have suffered indirect damages due to the war, a salary reimbursement program, and relief measures for employees put on unpaid leave.

Tax Authority representative Amir Dahan told the committee that over a period of a single month, 204,000 claims were submitted. He said the government had paid out a total of NIS 3.75 billion ($1 billion) so far. Nevertheless, he said, there were cases of people falling between the cracks.

“There are errors. We do everything to take care of them. There has never been an event like this,” he said, asserting that the vast majority of compensation claims had been handled successfully.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid presenting a plan to financially support IDF reservists during a meeting of his Yesh Atid party’s faction meeting in the Knesset on December 25, 2023. (Sam Sokol)

Meanwhile, the emergency compensation regulations, passed for a 90-day period about two months ago, have not yet been extended. Kfir Battat, deputy director of the Finance Ministry’s Budget Department, added that there were “no good answers” regarding the government’s delay in extending these regulations but said that the ministry was working to resolve the issue as fast as possible.

In response, Gafni called on the ministry to expedite updating the relevant regulations so that they could be approved this week.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid censured the government for its conduct Monday afternoon during his Yesh Atid party’s weekly faction meeting.

“The government did not think it was its duty to take care of these people, who were torn in middle of their lives from their families and their businesses,” he said.

He lamented that Israel has “a government of 38 ministers, and there is not a single minister in it who gets up in the morning and knows that his job is to help the reservists.” He said the reservists represented “the productive power of the country” and said assistance should be far better managed.

Lapid unveiled his own comprehensive proposal, calling for increased compensation for reservists in line with the average Israeli monthly salary of just under NIS 13,000 ($3,600), providing troops and their spouses two months of protection against dismissal from their jobs, and property tax relief compensation for employers of reservist soldiers.

“We need a broad national program that puts them at the top of the national priority list,” Lapid said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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