An elderly Holocaust survivor enjoys a warm meal thanks to the Association for Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Last year on Holocaust Remembrance Day, we published an editorial calling for measures to be taken to ensure that survivors in Israel do not live out their last years in poverty.
Despite the best efforts of volunteer and professional organizations and new legislation that provide some survivors with increased benefits, the goal of providing every survivor with the care and dignity that was robbed of him or her earlier in life is still far from being achieved.
According to data provided by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors, about 25% of the country’s approximately 200,000 Holocaust survivors live below the poverty line. A fifth skip meals because they do not have enough money to buy food.
A report issued last week by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira highlighted glitches within the system – whether it’s the failure to allocate sufficient financial, housing or medical assistance, or the failure to have a central authority responsible for standing up for Holocaust survivors, while pointing a finger at the government for inadequately safeguarding survivors’ rights.
“The state’s attitude toward survivors may affect the memory of the Holocaust for future generations,” Shapira’s report cautioned.
As The Jerusalem Post’s
legal affairs reporter Yonah Jeremy Bob wrote, Shapira warned that time is running out and the government must improvement things for survivors, whose average age is 85.
According to the report, 16,000 survivors are waiting, some for years, to receive subsidized housing for which their eligibility has already been approved. In addition, in 2014 and 2015, NIS 60 million earmarked as aid to elderly survivors was never used for that purpose due to lack of oversight and of plans by the Social Equality Ministry to use the funds.
Likewise in 2016, the ministry used only NIS 4.3m. out of NIS 40m. sum budgeted for survivors.
In the absence of a state-sponsored body charged with ensuring their welfare, far too many survivors depend on nongovernmental organizations. The lack of clarity leaves survivors ignorant of their rights, and leads to multiple ministries performing the same functions.
Many remain unaware of the financial benefits they are entitled to from the state, at a time when, in the twilight of their lives, they need help more than ever.
“Even though improvements were made since the publication of the previous report, a high percentage of Holocaust survivors still live in poverty because of unbelievable bureaucracy, patchwork legislation, deficiencies in health services and insufficient resources,” the Center for Organizations for Holocaust Survivors in Israel said in a statement.
One initiative that will help was the passage this year of a law increasing state benefits for Holocaust survivors who receive guaranteed monthly income.
There are approximately 15,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel today who arrived after 1953, and receive €960 per quarter from Germany. Of those, 6,000 receive a guaranteed monthly income of NIS 2,200 from the government, among other benefits, but the money from Germany is subtracted from it.
The new law, sponsored by MKs Tali Ploskov (Kulanu) and Dov Henin (Joint List), changes the policy so that the benefit from Germany does not count against the Israeli state income. As a result, the 6,000 Holocaust survivors will receive an extra NIS 1,200 per month.
Another bill, spearheaded by Henin and Yesh Atid MKs, aims to significantly increase the annual financial allotments of post-1953 immigrant survivors.
Approximately 78,000 survivors made aliya after 1953, and a result of their relatively late arrival, they haven’t been entitled to a number of rights granted to “Disabled Victims of Nazi persecution.”
About 1,000 survivors in Israel die every month, and within 15 years, there will remain approximately 43,700 Holocaust survivors, according to a report the Central Bureau of Statistics released earlier this year.
As the sanctuary for Jews after the Holocaust and ever since, Israel owes it to the men and women who survived the Nazi atrocities to provide them with the material and emotional comfort that will enable them to live in dignity.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, as we commemorate the six million murdered and ardently vow “Never Again,” let us also not forget those who survived, and let us honor them with that same passion and conviction.