MK Shmuly seeks to erase 'moral stain' of poverty among Holocaust survivors

Knesset to hold annual "Every Man Has a Name" ceremony; MKs tell their survivor parents' stories.

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April 15, 2015 19:26
4 minute read.
SURVIVORS GATHER at the Jewish Holocaust Center in MelbourneRABBI PINCHAS ZEKRY

SURVIVORS GATHER at the Jewish Holocaust Center in Melbourne. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Documents proving that one is a Holocaust survivor will no longer be necessary to get benefits from the state if a bill submitted by MK Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union) becomes law.

Under the legislation, anyone born before 1945 in a country occupied by the Nazis or their partners will be eligible for support ensuring they make at least NIS 6,000 per month, without requiring further proof, documentation or bureaucratic processes to become eligible.

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Some 189,000 survivors live in Israel, according to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.

Nearly 73 percent of them have urgent health problems, and about 15,000 die annually, with the number increasing each year. More than 25% of survivors live under the poverty line on under NIS 4,000 per month.

Because of the complex and exhausting process of proving one survived the Holocaust, many give up on their right to benefits that would allow them to live with dignity Shmuly said on Wednesday.

If they got NIS 6,000 per month, they would not have to face the painful dilemma of whether to pay for medication, or warm clothing or lunch, he said.

“My proposal is so simple and fair that it is unclear why it wasn’t implemented already. Its goal is to prevent discrimination and ridiculous, burdensome state bureaucracy that deals with Holocaust survivors, many of whom get nothing from the state because of arbitrary decisions the government made about survivors’ year of aliya, year of birth and place of residence,” Shmuly said.

“We must anchor in law the government’s commitment to Holocaust survivors living in dignity for the time they have left, or else the moral stain will not be erased,” he added.

Shmuly calculated that his bill will cost less than NIS 2 billion over the next 12 years, the time by which nearly all Holocaust survivors are expected to die.

The Zionist Union MK said he expects the Finance Ministry to oppose on grounds that people who were not Holocaust survivors will end up getting money from the state, but that this is a low price to pay to ensure all survivors can live in dignity, and anyway the supposed fakers would be elderly impoverished people who are worth helping.

On Thursday, the Knesset will hold its 26th annual Every Man Has a Name ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day, named after a poem by Zelda (1914-1984) that was inspired by the Holocaust.

President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor and MKs will read the names of people killed in the Holocaust.

Participants in the ceremony often talk about their personal connection to the Holocaust and read names of murdered relatives.

In addition, Holocaust survivors and their descendants will light a memorial sixpronged lamp, representing the six million Jews killed.

Among those lighting candles will be Haim Koretzky, grandfather of MK Michal Biran (Zionist Union), Sharon Azaria, mother of MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), Tova Abukrat, mother of MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union), and Chaya Mazuz, mother of MK Yaron Mazuz (Likud).

On Wednesday, lawmakers began preparing themselves for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Seventy years is hardly a comma in the annals of history,” Edelstein wrote on Facebook. “The greatest catastrophe in human history and certainly in Jewish history essentially took place here and now. The extent and the depth of the evil is so incomprehensible that we almost cannot understand something of the horrors of the Holocaust without connecting to testimony from the inferno.”

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union), both of whose parents survived the Holocaust, wrote a lengthy Facebook post about her father, Moshe. He was born in Lodz, Poland, the youngest of eight siblings, of which only he and a brother, who were sent to a forced labor camp, survived.

Yacimovich wrote that when she was 15, her father was asked to testify against one of the commanders of the camp, and at first he refused, because he wanted to leave the past behind.

In the end, he flew to Germany and testified, and the Nazi was convicted, her father “didn’t feel satisfied, or like he won... Revenge was never part of his personality.”

“I have no idea how my father managed to survive the horrors and stay such a good and moral person, and I don’t mean moral in the sense that he gave sermons about morality. He was moral in the sense that he had a good heart, lived simply, honestly, modestly and saw every man as equal,” she wrote.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid told 12th-graders in Tel Aviv the story of his late father, former justice minister Tommy Lapid, ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The Holocaust teaches us two lessons. The first is that we have to survive at any price, the second is that no one will protect us,” Lapid said. “My father was 13 and he didn’t do anything to the people who wanted to kill him. They didn’t want to kill him because of something he did. They wanted to kill him because of who he was and what I am and what all of you are. They wanted to kill him because he was a Jew.”


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