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One day ahead of the country's official report on poverty, published annually by the National Insurance Institute, a study carried out by humanitarian aid organization Latet has found that the majority of Israelis believes it is the government's and the social welfare services' responsibility to ensure that the country's poor and needy receive food aid during the upcoming High Holy Days.
According to Latet, which questioned a sample of 500 Israeli adults over the past two weeks, more than 86 percent agreed with the statement that it is the task of the state to ensure its citizens do not go hungry at such a time.
"Most of the population, including Latet, believes it to be the responsibility of the state to distribute food to needy citizens," commented Latet director Eran Weintraub. "However, in reality there is a lack of concern by official bodies in providing aid and assistance to those who really need it."
According to official figures published by Latet, which oversees the distribution of food packages to more than 100 individual aid organizations around the country, over a million Israeli citizens are trapped in the poverty cycle and are in need of immediate assistance.
The NII's last annual poverty report concur with those figures, noting that 26.2% of Israelis or 1.6 million people, were below the poverty line in 2005 - a 1.7% jump from 24.5% in 2004. The NII report also found that 769,000 children lived below the poverty line in 2005, an increase of 55,000 in 2004. That number represents more than 35% of the country's children.
The Latet study also found that 90% of those questioned believed that without private donations, those struggling below the poverty line would not be able to celebrate the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur holidays with dignity.
"We can see that the public sector is beginning to get exhausted from the strain of this responsibility falling only on its shoulders," continued Weintraub, adding that the organization hoped to raise funds for more than a million meals to be handed out ahead of Rosh Hashana, which begins in just over a week. He noted that this Tuesday the organization would launch its annual fund-raising drive via a telethon on Channel 10.
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