President Shimon Peres has pledged his full support for projects designed to alleviate social welfare needs. In a meeting Monday with Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, Peres guaranteed Herzog his office's cooperation on issues such as food for the needy, youth in distress, youth at risk, rights for people with disabilities, respect for the dignity of senior citizens and ensuring that Holocaust survivors spend the twilight of their days in a modicum of comfort.
But Peres's greatest concern was for youth at risk. Because they fall into crime and drug addiction, rehabilitation becomes not only difficult but expensive.
Herzog explained that, too often, youth are at risk because they are growing up in single-parent families in which the mother often works at a job that pays so little she can barely scrape together the money required to keep the household going.
According to Herzog, there are 330,000 youngsters at risk in Israel in addition to 700,000 living below the poverty line. Peres told Herzog that with so much wealth in the country, there was no justification for such extensive poverty.
While Herzog was no less troubled than Peres about the future of Israel's children, his number one priority at the moment is to try to achieve some form of justice for Holocaust survivors.
Of the 250,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, he told Peres, 180,000 receive no financial support, a situation he finds both outrageous and shameful.
As far as doing something to improve the survivors' lot, he said, both Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and MK Colette Avital were active in trying to find a solution. He also said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised to take part in their efforts and that talks were in progress with the relevant people in the Finance Ministry.
Peres said he had opted to have his first official meeting with a government minister with Herzog because social welfare was such a crucial item on the national agenda.