From survival to a dignified life

Organization helps Holocaust survivors access government benefits.

As Israel commemorates the victims of the Holocaust, thousands of the country’s dwindling population of survivors living in areas far from central services are still not receiving the government benefits for which they are eligible.
One organization, Yedid, has helped over 1,000 of these survivors live out their last years in dignity, through a program funded by the Holocaust Claims Conference called From Survival to a Dignified Life.
The organization said Monday that Holocaust survivors living in the periphery knew far less about their rights and benefits than those living in the center of the country. Research gathered through From Survival to a Dignified Life also found that a large number of these survivors were exploited by salesmen and service providers, partly due to difficulties speaking Hebrew and their lack of comprehensive knowledge of the benefits they were supposed to receive from the government.
Yedid deputy director Ran Melamed said that Holocaust survivors living in the periphery had a harder time getting their benefits because the areas where they lived had less access to organizations that help Holocaust victims.
“What we’ve seen is that the ones in the periphery, for the most part, know nothing about their rights – something we see much more often [there] than we do in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem,” Melamed said.
“In these places, there are more organizations that serve Holocaust victims in operation, while there are virtually none in the periphery,” he added, citing towns such as Dimona, Ofakim, Kiryat Malachi and Hatzor Haglilit.
“In order to receive assistance for many issues [related to Holocaust victims], including health-care issues and housing issues, you have to speak to the person in charge of the specific ministry, and if you don’t now who they are or how to talk to them, the chances you will receive what is coming to you are far lower,” he explained.
Holocaust survivors in Israel, many of whom live in dire poverty, receive discounts on electricity and medicine, among other benefits, as well as monthly stipends from the government. Many of the benefits are distributed by different government agencies, a fact Melamed said made receiving them difficult for people who lived far away from the Center and had trouble navigating the bureaucracy.
“The benefits they receive can change on an almost monthly basis, so ifyou aren’t a professional, it’s very hard to know what you are entitledto,” Melamed said.
He added that Yedid’s program operated bydistributing informational brochures throughout the periphery, offeringguidance to those survivors unsure of what they were eligible toreceive.
Furthermore, he said, the organization is looking tocreate a package of benefits that survivors can receive “within amaximum distance of their communities,” in an attempt to close the gapin service between those in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and those in theperiphery.