MK: ‘Government should help Holocaust survivors while we still can’

Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuly proposed benefits equal to minimum wage for all Shoah victims.

A Holocaust survivor shows the number that was tattooed on his arm in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
A Holocaust survivor shows the number that was tattooed on his arm in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuly called on Wednesday for the government to invest more in providing aid to survivors.
“On all days of the year, but certainly on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel needs not only to remember those who perished in the Holocaust, but to take care of those who survived,” he said. “Most survivors don’t receive the minimal amount of aid so they can live in dignity at the end of their lives...
The average age of survivors in Israel is 85-86, so in 15 years or so, we won’t have any left. If Israel wants to fix the continuing injustice, we have to make a fundamental fix, not just cosmetic changes.”
The current National Insurance Institute allotments to survivors are “just a drop in the ocean,” the lawmaker lamented.
Shmuly has proposed a bill that would grant all Holocaust survivors the maximum currently allotted to survivors, regardless of whether they receive payments from European countries or other criteria.
He said the government has different categories of survivors and provides different levels of aid.
“There’s a small group that gets a monthly stipend, medical care and free medicines... Most survivors don’t get the aid they need... For example, survivors who moved to Israel after 1953 don’t get full rights. There were countries in which Israel didn’t immediately recognize that there was a Holocaust” such as Greece and parts of North Africa, he said.
Shmuly’s bill calls to unite the different groups and give all survivors a monthly stipend amounting to minimum wage of NIS 5,300 per month, along with free medicine and extra medical care.
“We want to bring all the groups to the maximum standard of what the limited group receives,” he said.
Shmuly also expressed frustration at the bureaucracy survivors face, saying that some of them just give up and don’t get their medical needs. He told a story of a survivor who needed his hearing aid replaced, which the state was meant to provide, and a bureaucrat told him he has to prove his hearing problems came from the Holocaust.
“How is he supposed to prove that, when he came to this country with nothing? Is he supposed to have a note from Dr. Mengele?” Shmuly asked.
Another area in which Shmuly called to help Holocaust survivors is to simply keep them company. About 45% of survivors complain of loneliness, he said.
Shmuly, 38, called on young people to take responsibility for Holocaust survivors and for senior citizens in general.
“We young people have to fight their war,” he said. “They can’t do it alone...
We can deal with this through help from students and youth groups. It’s something we can do through personal responsibility. That will be a great contribution to the Holocaust survivors.”
Shmuly came to prominence as head of the National Union of Israeli Students and a leader of the 2011 housing protests, which launched his political career, but in recent years, he has put a lot of his energies into helping the elderly.
The Zionist Union MK said that, even though it does not necessarily benefit him politically, he does not regret a moment of that effort.
“My greatest motivation comes from the moral responsibility... That generation built our country,” he said. “They came from all over the world wanting to build a national home for the Jewish people, dreaming of solidarity and a safe haven. The country doesn’t show appreciation for its founders. As people setting policy, we have a responsibility to help them.”