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In the days immediately following the terror attack that killed both her parents, Na'ama Tzoref (Halevy), 33, says that she was still under the "illusion that the State of Israel would take care of her."
"I was still in shock in the early days and believed the words of our prime minister telling us that the 'State of Israel is with you.' However, it did not take long for that illusion to be shattered when we realized that the country does not, in fact, recognize us as victims of terror at all," Tzoref said Monday during a session of the Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, which convened to prepare a bill for its first reading that aims to change the current law.
The law states that in families where one parent is killed in a terrorist attack, the surviving spouse and his or her children are considered victims of terror by the National Insurance Institute and entitled to financial benefits and support services for as long as they need.
According to Tzoref, those who have lost both parents in a terror attack are not considered victims of terror by the NII and as such, are not entitled to these same benefits.
Those who lose two parents actually end up receiving less aid than those who lose one parent.
Currently such orphans get a monthly stipend until the age of 23 at which point Tzoref said the situation is exacerbated for those over that age who are not entitled to any long-term benefits, but only to several one-time scholarships for certain key lifecycle events.
Tzoref, who lost both her parents, Rafi and Helena Halevy when a terrorist disguised as a religious Jew blew himself up in their car in Kedumim on March 30, 2006, told the Knesset panel her 35-year-old brother received no benefits at all.
"He gets no discounts on his arnona [city tax], his television license, and no rehabilitation treatment to get over this tragedy."
A lawyer by profession, Tzoref represents four out of 17 families in Israel today who have lost both parents. Figures quoted in the meeting, chaired by MK Arieh Eldad (Ichud Leumi-Mafdal), suggested there was a total of some 50 such children, some younger than 21, but most are adults.
Following the session, Tzoref told The Jerusalem Post she was determined to force the government to change the law so that all children orphaned by acts of terror were fairly compensated, with additional benefits for those who've lost both parents.
The present orphan's law is based on military rules, where the rationale is that it is usually a young male soldier who is killed in the line of duty, leaving parents, a widow, and/or children behind, explained MK Zevulun Orlev (Ichud Leumi-Mafdal), who is the main impetus behind the pending legislation.
"This is not a new problem," explained Orlev to the committee. "I became aware of it when I was minister of Welfare and Social Services [2003-2004]. The law is a military one, but there are key differences between the army and civilian life.
"As it stands today, we are faced with a humanitarian problem that needs to be changed immediately. We are only talking about such a small number of people with a minimal amount of money needed to rectify the situation, " he added.
In recent months the matter has also been taken up by Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who appeared briefly in Monday's meeting to show support for the families. She said she was determined to push the legislation through as fast as possible before the Knesset is dissolved for elections.
While the first draft of the bill was approved by the committee Monday, representatives of the Treasury, the NII and the Defense Ministry aired their concerns in several areas, including that if the age of eligibility for benefits is raised to the proposed 40, it would cost the state millions more in spending.
These issues, along with the question of how to compensate families that adopt or foster the orphans, will be ironed out in follow-up readings of the bill, said Eldad at the meeting's summation.
Tzoref, who said the ideal situation for children orphaned by terrorist attacks would be to consider them victims of terror for the rest of their lives similar to the status of a widow, told the Post that she was "extremely happy this subject is finally being discussed by politicians."
"This is the first step in fixing this unfair situation," she concluded. "We lost our parents because they were Israeli citizens - that is the only reason they were murdered - and it's about time the state recognizes that."
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