They are two neighbors, both Holocaust survivors. One struggles under the burden of monthly expenses and cannot afford to buy meat. The other receives tax breaks, discounted medications and National Insurance Institute income supplements. They live one floor apart in Tel Aviv after both suffering unimaginable horrors at the hands of the Nazis. A floor apart, but the two women might as well be living in different worlds.
Comptroller notes 'serious lapses' in survivor support
Comment: Facing up to decades of neglect towards Holocaust survivors
Their stories illustrate some of the "severe shortcomings" in the state's treatment of elderly survivors described in a report issued by the State Comptroller's Office on Wednesday.
Jenny Rosenstein, 72, was born in Germany. She was tortured and raped by the Nazis, and lost her entire family: parents, sisters, aunts and uncles.
She managed to come to Israel in 1950, suffering from a severe mental condition. Little by little she rehabilitated her physical life. She opened her own hair dressing salon and worked and paid taxes with no help for 35 years. Her soul and mind, however, never recovered.
Rosenstein's neighbor, who asked to be called R.K., came to Israel from Romania in 1960. She receives a pension via the Treasury and monthly income supplements, and her medications are heavily subsidized. She is exempt from municipal taxes (arnona) and has a comfortable housing arrangement, subsidized by the state.
Down the stairs, Rosenstein lives on a quarterly pension of â‚¬808 from the German government, and a NII pension of NIS 2,400 a month. Together, these two sources provide her about NIS 3,900 each month, not bad for a pension, if only her expenses were not so high.
Ever since 1963, Rosenstein has paid the rent on her small "key money" apartment. Her bad health - she hurt her back in a fall - and the 46 steps to her place do not allow her to go out often.
She pays full municipal taxes, NIS 240 every two months. She has to buy medications for her high blood pressure, cholesterol and nerves problem, about NIS 300 a month. And then there's the gas, water, phone and electricity.
She also pays a monthly subscription to the Shahal private emergency coronary assistance company because of her weak heart. She took a loan to pay the lawyer who represents her in her suit demanding 60 percent of the value of her apartment from her landlord in an effort to move to a lower flat that will allow her to see daylight more often.
"After all these payments, the money I have left is enough to buy some vegetables, porridge and potatoes. I cannot afford to buy meat or chicken and so my health condition keeps deteriorating," says Rosenstein in tears.
"I don't ask for luxuries or a Cadillac, I ask for a little warmth and compassion. I also want to end my travails and to achieve some tranquility. Why can't I get my medications and medical treatments at discounted prices? Why does an old woman like me who survived such awful things have to pay full municipal taxes? Why can't I buy meat and chicken twice a week so I can get stronger? This injustice hurts and is not fair. I'm not just talking about me, most of my friends are Holocaust survivors and in real bad shape, and no one cares."