Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein..
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews announced on Friday, ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the establishment of an emergency call center for health and social issues for tens of thousands of needy Holocaust survivors.
As part of the project, a panic button will be provided to underprivileged survivors, that will allow them to call for a doctor or an ambulance, as well as social assistance to alleviate feelings of distress and loneliness, all at subsidized prices.
In addition, the IFCJ will establish a fund to financially assist survivors who cannot afford treatments, transportation, or medical equipment.
The project will cost an estimated NIS 5.25 million per year and is set to be launched next summer, once a list of eligible participants is determined and logistical operations are in place.
“The treatment of Holocaust survivors in Israel for many years suffered severe deficiencies and many survivors today are suffering from serious problems of poverty and loneliness,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFCJ founder and president.
“This situation is a serious moral stain on the forehead of Israeli society as a whole and this population should be treated without delay and on a significant scale while they are still living among us.”
The hotline was established following a request by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel. In previous years the foundation was able to provide panic buttons to some 12,000 survivors through government funding.
However due to a rearrangement of government funding to other benefits for survivors, no budget was allocated to provide this service to more survivors.
“We thank the fellowship for its efforts to establish an emergency call center for survivors, a project that is a critical need for many survivors, and will run in cooperation with the foundation at its head,” said Avi Dichter, chairman of the foundation.
Currently, only around 8,500 survivors have panic buttons, despite an increase in the need for this service, due to survivors’ ages and the accompanying medical needs.
On Wednesday the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel released a report indicating that some 50,000 Holocaust survivors are living in poverty. Furthermore, according to the report, 45 percent of Holocaust survivors feel lonely and one out of every five had been forced to choose between food and medicine during the past two years due to their poverty.
The Finance Ministry recently announced a billion-shekel national plan to assist Holocaust survivors during the next five years. The plan essentially calls for the elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy by transferring allowances directly to survivors’ bank accounts. In addition, it calls to raise the minimum allowances for all Holocaust survivors who receive monthly pensions, and would entitle survivors to a 100% discount on medicines included in the health basket, compared to the 50% deductible they have today.
“Recently, the Israeli government has announced several dramatic decisions regarding aid to Holocaust survivors. We welcome this and call on the government to fulfill its obligations quickly to finally allow Holocaust survivors to live the rest of their lives with dignity,” said Eckstein.