The Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs held a
discussion on the difficulties for Holocaust refugees in Israel on Monday, one
day before International Human Rights Day.
Holocaust refugees from the
former Soviet Union who participated in the panel discussion, speaking mostly in
Russian, laid out their problems – primarily their inability to afford drugs,
medical tests, rent and food.
“Why is the Jewish state that we love,
where our bones will be buried, ashamed to recognize us as refugees and help
us?” Holocaust refugee Yafim Kipnis asked.
Committee Chairman MK Yoel
Razbozov (Yesh Atid) told the panel that due to a government decision in 2011,
Holocaust refugees are no longer entitled to receive reimbursement for
medications from the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel,
to which the Finance Ministry has allocated NIS 300 million.
number of fund recipients are from the former Soviet Union, and about 40 percent
of them live off of subsistence payments. If the government would return the
ability for the fund to reimburse Holocaust refugees for medications, it would
greatly benefit them,” foundation representative Yisraella Schwartzman
Since the 2011 decision, a clear distinction has been made between
Holocaust survivors who receive pensions and continue to receive a 50-60 percent
discount on medications through the health funds and Holocaust refugees who are
no longer eligible for discounts.
Today, Holocaust refugees are entitled
to a refund for a sum of up to NIS 4,000 to cover costs of medical equipment for
two years. In order to receive the reimbursement they must correctly fill out
forms and provide receipts, a lengthy and often confusing bureaucratic
“This is a welcome change,” Finance Ministry representative Guy
Haramati said, to overwhelming grunts of disapproval from the Holocaust refugees
in the room. Haramati explained that over the past year and a half, the Finance
Ministry had made key decisions to improve the overall situation by providing
greater allocation of hours of care that Holocaust refugees receive and an
increase in grants for assistance with medical equipment.
“These are two
significant decisions worth NIS 60 million for Holocaust refugees,” Haramati
said. “This is an ongoing process that is continually being tested. There is
awareness and it is receiving attention, but there are budgetary
MK Razbozov promised that the committee would work with the
Finance Ministry to solve the problem of indemnification for drugs and would
help ease bureaucratic red tape for Holocaust refugees and survivors, though he
said he could not give a deadline for these changes.