The living conditions of thousands of Holocaust survivors in Israel has been
improving over the past two years thanks to several government initiatives aimed
at reducing poverty among this segment of the population, The Jerusalem Post has
However, organizations working with the 210,000 survivors in
Israel told the Post on Monday that those from the former Soviet Union – who
consider themselves victims of the war and who immigrated to Israel in the last
20 years – are still struggling financially despite government efforts. Many of
them live below the poverty line and rely on food aid agencies for their basic
“The financial situation for those who arrived here in the last 20
years is very bad because they came at an advanced age, were not able to work,
have no additional survivor benefits and are not recognized officially [as
survivors] by the government,” explained Noah Flug, director of the Central of
Organization of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.
According to Flug, who is
also president of the International Auschwitz Committee, many of the FSU
survivors receive National Insurance Institute-issued income support of up to 50
percent because of their exceptionally low pensions, compared to survivors from
Germany who typically receive only a 1% income supplement and Poland, whose
survivors receive 1.5%.
He estimated that roughly 140,000 of the
survivors living here immigrated from the FSU, although most were originally
from Europe and fled their homes before the arrival of the German army during
World War II.
In Israel, they are termed the “second wave” of survivors,
distinguished from the 70,000 “first wave” survivors who lived directly under
Nazi occupation during the war, explained Flug.
First wave survivors are
officially recognized as Holocaust victims by the Israeli government and receive
benefits beyond their state pensions.
“After two years of more intense
discussions it has finally been agreed upon that everyone who lived under Nazi
occupation should be allowed to receive benefits from the government,” continued
Flug, adding that they run between NIS 1,600 and NIS 1,800 a month on top of the
standard state pension.
“In general, the financial situation of those
from the first wave of survivors is better than others, because most people get
a pension from one of the governments in Europe,” he said, but added, “their
situation is still tough, because the older you are the more medical support a
Last April, an agreement reached between the ministries of
Health, Welfare and Social Services and Finance paved the way for a NIS 50
million a year benefits package to provide some 80,000 survivors with up to a 90
percent subsidy on essential health and medical supplies.
steps taken a year earlier to increase payments to an additional 8,000 Holocaust
survivors, as well as other non-financial benefits.
In February 2009, a
new information center was launched (*9444) to assist survivors in navigating
the complicated bureaucracy and help people to claim any missing or additional
Ido Benjamin, adviser to Welfare and Social Services Ministry
director-general Nachum Itzkovich, told the Post that many of these government
initiatives were finally producing results.
“Last week the Finance
Ministry approved a group of 5,000 Libyan Jews to receive a ‘survivors’
pension,” Benjamin said. “Slowly, slowly they are widening the group of those
who are being recognized for assistance.”
He estimated that since 2008,
some 2,500 survivors had jointed the “first wave” of survivors to
additional government benefits.
While these benefits, together with the
medical subsidies and a specially allocated budget of NIS 200m.
programs for survivors, are all contributing to improved conditions,
that these steps are too little, too late, and are merely an attempt by
government to address survivors’ needs that it had ignored in the
Whatever the reason for the increase in government allocations to
survivors – even as their numbers continue to diminish – organizations
with them are cautiously admitting that the situation is better than it
several years ago.
“There certainly have been improvements,” commented
Natan Levon, director of the pensioner’s rights group Ken
Referring specifically to the government’s attempts to reach
survivors who have not yet claimed their additional benefits, he said:
though the forms are now much simpler, people can still be waiting as
long as a
year before they see the money. The bureaucracy is still a very lengthy
However, Levon added, while they are still faced with huge
bureaucracy and there are still many people who are not recognized by
government as Holocaust survivors, “there are definitely less survivors
below the poverty line than before.”