Man vows to continue hunger strike over welfare

Hunger striker claims he’s being punished by National Insurance Institute for having children with his ex-wife.

Supermarket shopping cart groceries food jeans 390 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Supermarket shopping cart groceries food jeans 390
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
A man protesting a National Insurance Institute decision to lower his monthly benefits vowed to continue his hunger strike outside the Prime Minister’s Residence until the government assists him financially.
Koby Sarusy, 46, who launched his campaign on Sunday, said the NII had been giving him and his ex-wife Anat NIS 14,500 monthly to help support his five children and to help him pay for an apartment near his family in Tel Aviv.
However, he said, the NII reduced the benefits in May 2009 to roughly NIS 5,500 a month (with Anat receiving NIS 4,000 and Sarusy receiving 1,500) because it claimed he and Anat were essentially married since they continued to have children together despite living apart, and married households receive less financial support. The children – ages 14, eight, six and four – live with Anat. They also have a 20-year-old.
A spokesman for the NII said the couple had been receiving hundreds of thousands of shekels as if they were living separately, but in May 2009, the NII claims, they either married or moved in together, so their payment was lowered.
Sarusy said the drop in support made it harder for him to keep up with his bills, and he fell into debt. As the bailiff’s office (hotza’a lafo’al) came to collect, he said he was unable to pay, so the collection agency revoked his driver’s license. His employer then fired him, he said. Sarusy had been working as a driver for doctors going on home visits, making from NIS 12,000-15,000 a month. Now he and Anat owe hundreds of thousands of shekels, he said.
“I don’t want presents,” Sarusy said. “I want a loan so I can pay my debts and work again.”
Sarusy said he is being punished by the NII for choosing to have more children with his ex-wife, after their daughter, Liuni, was killed in a terrorist attack on October 29, 2002, at Hermesh.
Two other women were killed in the attack by a Palestinian who infiltrated the West Bank settlement. At the time of the attack, Sarusy was already divorced, but he said Anat, deeply depressed, came to him a year later saying she wanted to have another daughter with him.
They ended up having three more children, but never remarrying, Sarusy said.
He said he is waiting for the government to assist him financially, and only MK Yossi Peled (Likud) has offered support.
“The prime minister knows I’m here, but no one cares. How can he see someone on a hunger strike and not do anything?” Sarusy said. “My body is weak but my soul is strong. I will continue until the end.”
While he intended to remain at his post through Passover, which begins Friday night, he said his children want him home so he will return temporarily.
Sarusy said he suffers from diabetes and had a heart attack last month.
“The warmth I get from people who pass by gives me strength,” he said. “I decided I have no more to lose.”