Gov't to boost services for Holocaust survivors

Additions will include an increase in the annual budget for services to NIS 225 million for 2012.

Holocaust survivors 521 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Holocaust survivors 521
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The government on Tuesday announced plans to increase the basket of services aimed at improving the daily lives of thousands of aging Holocaust survivors in Israel.
Announced at a special cabinet meeting dedicated to the subject of the Holocaust -- ahead of national Remembrance Day starting Wednesday night – the additions will include an increase in the annual budget for services to NIS 225 million for 2012. Also, some 8,500 survivors will receive an additional NIS 580 a month on top of a special monthly pension of between NIS 2000 and NIS 700.
“Today's decision adds to the many actions we have taken in recent years on behalf of holocaust survivors,” commented Netanyahu, who recommended the additions together with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Minister for Senior Citizen affairs Leah Nass and Knesset Finance committee Chairman Moshe Gafni.
“Time is urgent and the survivors are, to our sorrow, leaving our world,” he added. “We want to remember those who perished, the six million brothers and sisters, and heed the lessons of the Holocaust in order to ensure the future of our people."
Ness pointed said that there are approximately 200,000 survivors still living in Israel and roughly 70,000 of them experienced directly life in concentration camps and ghettos during the war.
“Until recently, many of them had not even tried to utilize their rights,” said Ness, adding that in recent years her ministry has been successful in reaching more than 120,000 survivors and providing them with government assistance.
Finance Minister Steinitz noted that the budget for the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority, headed by Ofra Ross, currently stands at NIS 2.9 billion, as opposed to NIS 1.5 billion in 2005, and added that the Authority is currently dealing with almost 90,000 Holocaust survivors, as opposed to approximately 51,000 in 2005.
Despite steps taken by the government to increase financial aid, services and generally improve the lives of thousands of survivors, many are still unaware of their rights and some are not eligible for any assistance at all. It is also estimated that one-third of those still alive live below the poverty line.
Even as the government made its announcement Tuesday, Hebrew news website Ynet revealed that the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets had been forced to cut back on the monthly stipends it hands out to more than 10,000 survivors.
The company, which was created in 2007 to help locate assets that once belonged to Jewish families, explained that its budget to help those still alive is based on money or property unclaimed by its original owners. In that light, the company told Ynet, “we have no choice but to reduce a little assistance this year, because these are the funds available to us.”
According to figures released earlier this week by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, there are 198,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel, with the vast majority (88 percent) being over the age of 75. Nearly 20,000 of the survivors require round the clock care and assistance in their day-to-day life.
A report published last year by the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Meyers Brookdale Institute, noted that by 2015 the number of survivors left will have fallen by more than 30 percent to 145,000.
The Foundation and other organizations working with survivors have emphasized that despite the rapid fall in numbers, the needs of those survivors still alive has greatly increased.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Prime Minister together with Steinitz, Ness, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Minister Yossi Peled heard the personal stories of numerous Holocaust survivors at a hostel for the elderly.
Following the visit Netanyahu emphasized the importance of helping to keep the survivors alive in order to continue remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust.
“Today’s activity reflects the power of life, which is also based on the power of memory,” said Netanyahu. “If you are alive, you remember and in order for us to continue to live, we must remember.”