Pensioners: 'Boycott Holocaust Day'

Group to hold alternative ceremony opposite Knesset in protest of poverty.

holocaust survivor 298.8 (photo credit: Associated Press)
holocaust survivor 298.8
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Pensioners' rights group Ken Lazaken called Thursday for a boycott of official Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies to protest the government's failure to sufficiently help the more than 70,000 Holocaust survivors who live in poverty in Israel. "People should not participate in ceremonies to remember the dead, when really we should be remembering and helping those who are still living," Nathan Lavon, director of Ken Lazaken, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.. He said 35 percent of Israel's estimated 250,000 Holocaust survivors live below the poverty line, according to a study conducted by the JDC-Brookdale Institute. Many of them have to choose on a daily basis between buying food and paying for other basic needs, he said. "There needs to be a comprehensive law to ensure that Holocaust survivors do not have to chose between food or medicine, to make sure they will be cared for until the end of their days," Levon said, adding that while he usually attends one of the official events, this year he plans to participate in an alternative ceremony - scheduled to take place on Monday at noon opposite the Knesset - to highlight survivors' needs. Levon said he was shocked earlier this week during a meeting of the Knesset lobby for Holocaust survivors, which heard about the problems they encounter when asking the Finance Ministry to approve medical assistance. Several survivors described how the ministry panel responsible for allocating additional aid had demanded they prove their medical conditions or disabilities stemmed directly from Nazi persecution. "How can they possibly prove that these ailments came from the Holocaust?" Levon fumed. "And why should Holocaust survivors have to make a special request for glasses or dentures anyway? They should automatically get a discount for medicine." He also expressed anger over the government's stalling of funding for a law sponsored by the late MK Yuri Stern (Israel Beiteinu), which passed in January and is supposed to provide survivors with additional rent assistance and up to a 75% discount on medicine as soon as July. In response, Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan told the Post that his office had made progress in improving the situation. He highlighted increases in budget for the Fund for the Welfare of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, more hours of home help for survivors and a potential enlargement of the monthly stipend, which currently stands at NIS 1,000- 1,200 per month. "People think I can perform magic, that I am like Uri Geller and can bend spoons with my little finger, but I don't do magic, I do what I can do," said Eitan. "We are a new political party and are still finding ourselves." In response to Levon's demand for a comprehensive bill to help survivors as opposed to periodical legislative changes and increases in aid, Eitan said: "A law without financial backing helps no one, but increasing funding without a law does help people. Nathan Levon has been working on this for the last 10 years but he has not managed to get a law or money."