Migdal Or vows to continue helping blind despite defecit

Haifa District Court rules the organization will go into receivership, following gov't refusal to cover debt.

Employees of an organization that helps the blind and visually-impaired have vowed to keep its doors open, despite financial straits that will send it into receivership.
On Monday, the Haifa District Court ruled that Migdal Or (Tower of Light) will go into receivership, following the government’s refusal to cover the organization’s deficit.
Migdal Or is Israel’s only training and rehabilitation center for the blind and visually- impaired and is funded by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, with an annual operating budget of NIS 14 million.
The non-profit provides services to more than 3,500 people a year, including assessments of employment potential, technical training, mobility training, and training in how to navigate day to day life as a visually-impaired person. It also provides courses in computer science and Braille, and rehabilitation programs meant to repair worsening eyesight.
Migdal Or says that its goal is to “lead the blind person to functional independence and employment, and the ability to lead an independent day to day life.” It operates branches in Kiryat Haim, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba.
Ronit Landsman, the head of Migdal Or’s workers committee, said the main problem is that the government has not updated the amount of money it provides since it first began funding Migdal Or in 2000.
“In 2000, we started receiving government support, and over the past 10 years, the rates [of support] have stayed exactly the same, without taking into account the higher operating costs. This gap continued climbing and climbing until we reached the situation we have today,” Landsman said.
She dismissed government claims that the group’s financial situation is the result of inept management, saying, “There is no corruption or waste here. What we are is a charity that provides a superb service and has never asked for anything excessive.”
Landsman vowed that the organization would continue to operate as before.
“We still want to work and we believe very much in our organization and the services we provide,” she said. “We won’t close; we will keep working every day, every hour, with people from all over Israel.”
Welfare Ministry director-general Nahum Itzkovich denied that Migdal Or’s problems were caused by the ministry’s failure to raise budgetary allotments over the years, saying that managerial failings on the part of Migdal Or led to its financial distress.
“Failure on the part of the management is what brought them to a deficit of NIS 9m. in spite of the NIS 14m. that the Welfare Ministry gives them each year,” he said.
“It’s always easiest to blame someone else when your business fails,” Itzkovich said.
“We feel that the fact that an organization failed isn’t a reason for the taxpayer to pay its debts.”
Itzkovich added that Migdal Or is not the only provider of assistance to the blind and said there are dozens more in Israel that provide services to the visually impaired.
“Our main obligation is to the blind, and if we can also give a solution to the workers [of Migdal Or], we would like to do so as well,” Itzkovich said.