Netanyahu cabinet meeting 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The government on Tuesday announced plans to increase the basket of services
aimed at improving the daily lives of thousands of aging Holocaust survivors in
Announced at a special cabinet meeting dedicated to the Holocaust
– ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday – the additions will include an
upgrade in the annual budget for services to NIS 225 million for 2012. Also,
some 8,500 survivors will receive an additional NIS 580 a month on top of a
special monthly pension of between NIS 700 and NIS 2,000.
decision adds to the many actions we have taken in recent years on behalf of
Holocaust survivors,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who recommended
the increases along with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Pensioners
Affairs Minister Leah Ness and Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe
“Time is urgent and the survivors are, to our sorrow, leaving our
world,” Netanyahu added. “We want to remember those who perished, the 6 million
brothers and sisters, and heed the lessons of the Holocaust in order to ensure
the future of our people.”
According to Ness, approximately 200,000
survivors reside in Israel and roughly 70,000 of them were incarcerated in
concentration camps and ghettos during the war.
“Until recently, many of
them had not even tried to utilize their rights,” Ness said, adding that in
recent years her ministry has been successful in reaching more than 120,000
survivors and providing them with welfare assistance.
Steinitz said that
the budget for the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority, headed by Ofra Ross,
currently stands at NIS 2.9 billion, as opposed to NIS 1.5 billion in 2005, and
added that the Authority assists almost 90,000 Holocaust survivors, as opposed
to approximately 51,000 in 2005.
Despite the government’s steps to
increase financial aid and improve the lives of thousands of survivors, many are
still unaware of their rights and some are ineligible for any
assistance. Today, an estimated one third of Holocaust survivors in Israel
live below the poverty line.
Despite the government’s announcement on
Tuesday, Hebrew news website Ynet reported that the Company for Location and
Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets had cut back on the monthly stipends to
more than 10,000 survivors.
The company – created in 2007 to locate
assets that once belonged to Jewish families – explained that its budget to help
survivors is based on property unclaimed by its original owners. “We have no
choice but to reduce a little assistance this year, because these are the funds
available to us,” the company stated.
According to figures released
earlier this week by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in
Israel, there are roughly 198,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel, with the
majority, 88 percent, over the age of 75. Nearly 20,000 of the survivors require
full-time care and assistance in their dayto- day lives.
published by an institution affiliated with the American-Jewish Joint
Distribution last year said that by 2015 the number of survivors will decrease
by more than 30% to 145,000.
The foundation and other organizations
working with survivors emphasize that despite the falling numbers, the needs of
the remaining survivors only increase.
Earlier on Tuesday, the prime
minister stood with Steinitz, Ness, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and
MK Yossi Peled to listen to the personal stories of Holocaust survivors at a
hostel for the elderly.
Following the visit, Netanyahu highlighted the
importance of assisting survivors alive in order to remember the atrocities of
“Today’s activity reflects the power of life, which is
also based on the power of memory,” Netanyahu said. “If you are alive,
you remember and in order for us to continue to live, we must remember.”