The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews announced this week the launch of a large aid operation aimed at assisting the elderly in Israel, an initiative that will cost the organization NIS 100 million a year, amounting to some NIS 1 billion over the next decade.

The operation, which officially begins on August 15, will provide solutions for the needy elderly in terms of food, medicine, housing and battling loneliness.

The program will be gradually implemented in 50 municipalities across the country and will serve some 35,000 seniors.

It will be managed in close cooperation with local authorities, which will be responsible for contacting beneficiaries and monitoring the supplies of aid in coordination with local social services departments.

In the first year, 10 municipalities will participate in the program. A total of 5,500 seniors will receive food vouchers worth about NIS 180 a month, cold dishes worth approximately NIS 420 a month and other food assistance.

In terms of medical expenses, seniors will get vouchers of about NIS 140 a month to purchase prescription drugs and will receive medical assistance through the fellowship’s fund.

In addition, heating grants will be distributed to about 17,000 seniors across the country for the winter months.

The fellowship and local authorities will also be recruiting and training some 100 volunteers to keep some 600 elderly company, in order to battle loneliness.

The organization will also conduct public campaigns calling for the public, the business community and philanthropic funds to contribute to creating accessible social clubs for the elderly.

“The elderly community in Israel is the most vulnerable, as it faces severe problems of poverty and social isolation,” president of the fellowship Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein said. “Accordingly, we decided to spend much of our resources to benefit the elderly, so they can live the rest of their lives with dignity.”

“Society must also mobilize and bring about a change in attitudes toward the elderly population in Israel. Their struggle is our struggle. The way that we treat the elderly in our country today will determine how we will be treated when we become the needy ones.”

Approximately 800,000 elderly people live in Israel, 192,000 of whom are Holocaust survivors.

According to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the National Insurance Institute, since the end of 2010 there have been about 254,000 people aged 65 or more registered with social services departments, and about 190,000 elderly people were without sources of income other than their old-age pension and income supplements.

The CBS figures also showed that about 14 percent of seniors have given up on health services due to their high cost.

In addition, a survey conducted by the fellowship in 2012 found that 24% of elderly citizens are forced to give up food or medicine in order to cover the costs of electricity during the winter months.

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