Cabinet okays NIS 18.5m. plan for murder victims' families

Herzog asks cabinet to h

By a large majority, the cabinet on Sunday approved Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog's initiative for a NIS 18.5 million program to provide social and psychological assistance to families whose loved ones have been murdered. The package, which includes the establishment of five treatment and rehabilitation centers, support groups and legal advice to help families understand the criminal proceedings against the perpetrators, had already received preliminary approval from the Treasury and will answer an immediate void faced by up to 170 families a year, a spokeswoman for the minister said on Friday. "The murder of a loved one is unexpected and extremely traumatic event," Herzog said in a statement. "Such a crime completely ruins a person's life and changes it in every way." "In many cases, family members are left completely alone and find themselves embroiled in a fight against the authorities," he continued. "This assistance program will provide them with assistance and treatment for the whole family." Alexander Lautin, whose wife, Margarita, 31, was gunned down during a botched underworld assassination attempt in July 2008 on a Bat Yam beach, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that the proposed program does not go far enough. "This is obviously a positive thing, but it focuses on social assistance and there is no mention of additional state benefits at all," he said. "I believe that we should be treated the same as terror victims' families." "Does it make a difference if a family is left bereaved after a terror attack or after a meaningless murder?" continued Lautin. "All families have the same needs." However, he did say that government-supported psychological treatments would at least ease the financial pressures on his own family, since he and his two children are all undergoing therapy to come to terms with witnessing Margarita's murder. A spokeswoman for Herzog acknowledged that the initiative did not include additional financial benefits for families. Its goal was to provide them with "basic and immediate assistance," she said. "Many such families do not even know how to understand the legal process they are in and most of them do need psychological help afterwards," she said. "We wanted to deal with these problems first." She could not say if the minister planned to follow up this move with a demand for the government to provide financial assistance to bereaved families. Currently, relatives of soldiers and those from the defense establishment receive financial help from the state, as do families of those killed in terror attacks or traffic accidents. Statistics from the Israel Police show that up to 170 people are murdered each year, though there is no differentiation between those killed because they are members of organized crime families and innocent victims.