When Kay Wilson crawled out of the woods near Beit Shemesh after a terror attack
on December 18, 2010, in which two Palestinians stabbed her friend to death and
left Wilson to die, she thought the worst of the terror was behind her. Thankful
to be alive, though crushed by the murder of her friend Kristine Luken, Wilson
knew the road to recovery would not be easy.
But she never expected that
one of the biggest challenges in her recovery would be the humiliation and daily
struggle with the authorities meant to help her at the National Insurance
Seven months after the attack, Wilson found herself
shirtless in front of a medical committee as they callously measured the scars
from her 12 stab wounds. Every centimeter, she noted sarcastically, meant she
would get another few shekels per month.
“It was heartless and so
shocking – what kind of trauma does a person have to go through in order for
them to find it really traumatic?” she asked.
The recent spate of people
setting themselves aflame, starting with Moshe Silman on July 14, has brought
renewed awareness of the fate of people struggling to live with dignity on
National Insurance benefits, and the hopelessness they feel as they struggle
with the uncaring bureaucracy and mountains of paperwork. Wilson said while she
does not think she would ever take those drastic measures, she can certainly
understand where they’re coming from.
“The manner in which these people
kill themselves, it’s such a desperate manner, their agony is so huge that even
their suicide is proportional to their pain,” she said.
In Wilson’s case,
it took a seven-minute hearing, during which the examining doctor “did not even
get out of his chair,” for her to be pronounced 20 percent disabled and given a
stipend of NIS 800 per month. After she appealed, they raised her disability to
“When you take a tape measure and measure someone’s wounds because
it’s about square centimeters, it shows how the system has been corrupted,” said
Wilson on Monday.
“You want to believe the country is for you. People say
‘you’re such a hero!’ I don’t need that, I need help with my day-to-day
Wilson is adamant that she’s not looking for a handout. The
illustrator, musician and tour guide wants to go back to work and is slowly
easing back into guiding, a job that she loves.
But the terror attack has
made her wary of taking tourists into Arab areas, and she has trouble sleeping
at night and cannot keep a regular schedule. This makes it difficult for her to
find work with companies that need more reliable tour guides.
recently, Wilson started playing the piano again for charity events. But her
unemployment check of NIS 3,600 plus her disability check of NIS 800 means that
Wilson is constantly struggling and falling deeper and deeper into
Hundreds of people have protested outside of the National Insurance
Institutes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem following Silman’s act and subsequent
death, and seven people have set themselves on fire or threatened to do so in
the past week as a result of economic woes.
“The medical committees are
very complicated, with expert doctors in their fields, but they are autonomous
from the National Insurance Institute,” said the spokesman for the National
Insurance Institute on Monday. “We have no influence or connection to their
decisions.” He added that anyone with a specific complaint should turn to the
“We distribute 70 billion shekel to millions of citizens every
year,” he said. “We acknowledge that there are issues, but we are always
improving our policies and services. The amount of complaints compared to the
number of people served, in spite of everything, is small.”
said there were no specific reforms planned in the wake of widespread public
disapproval but the organization is “always in the process of
But for Wilson, the entire system needs an overhaul, from the
medical committees to the insensitive paperwork.
“Even when I get a
letter from NII and it says ‘Dear terror victim,’ I look at that and I think
good grief, I’m a terror victim,” she said. “It’s almost unbelievable. They
don’t understand what it is to get a plastic card that says ‘terror victim.’
They have no idea that they’re dealing with people whose lives have been
shattered, for them it’s just another letter in the mail.”
her struggles to get the support she needs from the institute are almost worse
than facing the terrorists in court.
“The battle with [NII] is another
kind of battle, they’re like Rottweilers – they do not let go,” she
“The court trial was horrible, but I knew it was going to end and
could close the door and never have to see them again.”
terrorists were sentenced to 120 years and 55 years.
“With the National
Insurance Institute it just keeps going,” she said. “It’s so difficult, it just
never ends. I have to exert my energies in just trying to live. It’s another
kind of terrorism to be honest, its emotional terrorism – and I know what terror
is, a lot more than most people.”