The social and economic needs of Israel’s Holocaust survivor population are
expected to increase dramatically in the next four years, according to a study
being released Sunday.
According to the study, undertaken by the Meyers
JDC Brookdale Institute on behalf of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust
Victims in Israel – the official state body responsible for providing survivors
with social welfare benefits and assistance – Israel is currently home to some
208,000 victims of Nazi atrocities – compared to 233,000 in 2009. On average,
12,800 survivors die each year, or 35 per day.
Surviving the Shoah – and beating Israeli bureaucracy
Groups seek to coordinate care for Holocaust survivors
The study highlighted that
by 2015, the need for financial assistance and medical aid by this population
will have risen sharply even though the number of survivors will have dropped by
30 percent, to 145,000.
Today, roughly 33% of the country’s Holocaust
survivors – or 60,000 individuals – are considered “needy.”
increasing needs are clearly linked to their advanced age, said the researchers,
noting that 3% of the survivors are now under the age of 70, 47% are between
70-80, and 50% are over 80.
By 2015, more than twothirds will be aged
“Our data show that in the coming years, mainly due to aging
factors, the needs of Holocaust survivors will greatly increase,” said Elazar
Stern, the foundation’s chairman.
“Awareness of the needs of survivors
has increased significantly in recent years, but our job is to make sure that
this will be translated in a way that will ensure the needs of all survivors are
met in the future.”
According to David Silberman, co-founder of the
nonprofit organization Aviv Lenitzolei Hashoah (Spring forHolocaust Survivors) and an expert on survivors’ rights, the problem facing
Holocaust survivors has less to do with a lack of funding than with the
difficulty of understanding which state funding or benefits they are entitled
His organization estimates that roughly NIS 250 million earmarked to
help Holocaust survivors goes unclaimed each year.
The Foundation for the
Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel says that the number of survivors
applying for health and welfare benefits has increased by 160% in the past five
years – with some 60,000 people receiving assistance today, compared to only
23,000 in 2005.
As well as looking at aging, the study examined the
health of survivors. Among the medical issues that were most prevalent, the
study found that 57% reported suffering from hypertension, 39% had some type of
heart disease, 40% suffered from chronic neck and back pain, and 26% had
The researchers also found that roughly 10% of survivors are
completely reliant on the help of others to perform basic daily tasks and are
eligible for National Insurance Institute nursing assistance. That figure is
expected to rise to 14% in 2015, and to 25% in 2025, the researchers
In addition, the study also examined the emotional and social
conditions of survivors already receiving assistance from the foundation. It
found that 40% feel lonely, and a similar percentage find it difficult to leave
Many survivors also reported a low frequency of going out
for cultural enjoyment.
In terms of housing and nutritional conditions,
the survey found that about 20% suffer from a lack of winter heating, and 5%
suffer from a lack of food.
Ronnie Kalinsky, CEO of the foundation –
which last week was among 15 government and non-government organizations that
met to improve their cooperation in working with survivors – said it would step
up its work with The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the
Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, as well as with
other bodies, to improve the quality of life for survivors in their final
“We know what needs to be done to improve their life quality.
Unfortunately, we still do not have the funding required to meet all their
needs,” Kalinsky said. “We are in a race against time to address this issue and
help them cope with the loneliness and hardships resulting from what happened in
However, Silberman told The Jerusalem Post
that some new
measures end up being more damaging than helpful.
The key to success, he
said, lies with assisting the people in navigating the bureaucratic nightmare of
obtaining social welfare rights and benefits.
“A lot of things that the
government talks about actually mean nothing for the survivors, and only ends up
actually hurting them,” he said.
Silberman pointed out that a change in
procedure last year to allocate medical aid for survivors via sick funds
actually meant that the foundation’s allocation was reduced, and an essential
medical equipment subsidy program was cut.