Holocaust museum in Ariel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid announced a NIS one billion national plan to assist Holocaust survivors on Sunday.
Lapid, along with Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, will request expedited approval for the plan at the next government meeting on Sunday, April 27, so that it can be urgently brought to a vote at the Knesset during the upcoming session.
“The State of Israel has an historical debt to Holocaust survivors and our mission is to ease their burden in the final years of their lives,” said Lapid.
The intended budget will be added to the NIS 835 million already allotted by the ministry for the next five years to assist some 200,000 Holocaust survivors.
The national plan outlines ten points aimed at “reducing the bureaucracy to facilitate and improve the condition of survivors,” he said.
The plans calls for the allocation of NIS 277 million intended to end 61 years of disparity and equate the allowances of some 18,500 Holocaust survivors who made aliya after 1953 to survivors who arrived in the country prior to this date.
Currently, survivors who made aliya post-1953 receive allowances ranging from NIS 1,500 to NIS 1,800 per month.
Under the new plan these allowances would increase to a range of NIS 1,825 to NIS 5,400 per month.
The reform would also raise the minimum allowances for all Holocaust survivors receiving monthly pensions from NIS 1,825 to NIS 2,200. This NIS 166 million allotment will benefit some 85,000 Holocaust survivors and victims of Nazi persecution.
The third point in the plan, estimated at NIS 130 million, would entitle Holocaust survivors to a 100% discount on pharmaceutical drugs included in the health basket, compared to the 50% deductible received today.
The plan also calls for the elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy, transferring allowances directly to survivors’ bank accounts. To date, Holocaust survivors who immigrated after 1953 and who are not veterans of the death camps and ghettos were entitled to a reimbursement of NIS 4,000 once every two years for dental treatments and eye glasses upon providing receipts and documentation.
The proposed amendment, estimated at NIS 288 million, would automatically allocate an annual grant of NIS 3,600 directly to the bank accounts of Holocaust survivors without the need for receipts or documentation.
Furthermore, the proposed plan calls for some 9,000 needy Holocaust survivors to receive an annual grant of NIS 2,000, estimated at a total of NIS 18 million.
An additional NIS 65 million, under the proposed plan, would be allocated to spouses of Holocaust survivors who have died, in the form of a NIS 2,000 allowance per month beginning from the fourth year of the death.
The national plan also calls for welfare services in existing day centers as well as doctor’s home visits and emotional and psychological care for Holocaust survivors, estimated at NIS 70 million.
Finally, the plan would call for a change in the methods for calculating income, so as not to include allowances paid for by the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority. Currently, the nursing allowance paid by the National Insurance Institute is calculated based on an income test of the elderly person.
With the approval of the plan, allowances paid to the Holocaust survivors would no longer be considered income with regards to entitlement for nursing pensions.
“This is the most important and significant amendment made by the State of Israel for Holocaust survivors, the amendment the state owed to the thousands of Holocaust survivors who established the important national and Zionist basis for the establishment of the state. As we have committed, this is a revolution that changes the reality of the lives of thousands of survivors, we still have additional important tasks though now we can say that one of the important social changes since the inception of the state is underway,” said Cohen.
Aviv Lenitzolei Hashoah (Spring for Holocaust Survivors), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Holocaust survivors in Israel realize their rights, welcomed the announcement.
“Every addition to the budget for Holocaust survivors is welcome and important. The survivors await the fastest implementation of the promises – without the bureaucracy that hinders them in realizing their rights,” said Aviva Silberman, the organization’s founder and chairwoman.