(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert officially handed over the Welfare and Social Services portfolio to Isaac Herzog (Labor) on Thursday, during a special ceremony and tour of Ramat Gan's Early Childhood Development Center.
During the event, Herzog told the prime minister that he was looking forward to the challenge of tackling socioeconomic problems and emphasized Olmert's commitment to social issues.
"I know that I will continue to get from you all the assistance we need to run this ministry," said Herzog. "It will be challenging and difficult work.
"Israel's social welfare system is under immense pressure and hardship. Improving the situation will not happen overnight and will only be successful if the prime minister and the government work together."
Olmert said that even though tackling the country's social problems would not be easy, he was confident that the talents and personal experience Herzog brings to the position would help improve the situation.
Olmert added that the two had chosen to visit the early learning center because of the government's continued commitment to encouraging the development of young children.
"Over the next year, the government plans to establish 20 more centers based on the Ramat Gan model," he said. "The government has decided to improve the quality of services for children up to first grade."
The Ramat Gan Early Childhood Development Center was established two years ago as a pilot to improve educational options for young children. It provides a variety of services including psycho-, speech and occupational therapies.
Herzog, who began work as the new welfare minister a week before Pessah, has already established a ministerial committee to research issues and draft legislation concerning the country's welfare situation and the social services it provides.