“Every single day of the COVID pandemic, during the closures and lockdowns, I thought of Holocaust survivors, even more alone than usual, distanced from family and friends. Their isolation brought back harrowing memories from the isolation they experienced during the Holocaust. We also remember today, the 900 Holocaust survivors who died from COVID,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the official Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) ceremony at Yad Vashem, Wednesday evening.
However, at the same time of the official speeches and ceremonies, on Yom Hashoah each year, we are reminded of the shameful fact that so many Holocaust survivors in Israel live in poverty. This year, the horrifying statistic is that one quarter - 48,000 out of 180,000 - of Israel's Holocaust survivors now live below the poverty line and rely on food donations to avoid going to bed hungry.
A recent study by the Holocaust Survivors’ Welfare Fund showed that many Holocaust survivors were forced to give up essentials to be able to buy food. Forty-three percent didn’t have enough money for spectacles, 33% couldn’t afford dental care and 27% couldn’t pay for hearing aids.
During this past year, survivors have had the added stress of having to cope with the COVID pandemic, making their lives even more difficult. Even after being vaccinated, many survivors are still afraid to leave their homes for fear of being infected by the new mutations.
The mere thought that so many elderly Israeli citizens – similar to our grandparents – will be sitting alone this Yom HaShoah with kitchens with empty refrigerators and be eating simple bread and cheese sandwiches, instead of nutritious meals, is simply unimaginable.
Many survivors are unable to cook for themselves and will stay hungry, as they have no one to cook them. They don’t have the mental strength to claim their legal rights or the physical strength to wait for committee hearings and official policies to change. In response to this appalling situation, an organization called "LeChiot B'Kavod" ( literally, "Living with Dignity”) was established 28 years ago, which does the crucial work of cooking hot meals for Holocaust survivors and distributing them - each day they provide over 1,500 meals.
Their good-hearted and kind volunteers cook delicious meals in their kitchens and pack them into individualized portions which are then personally distributed to survivors in their homes or in large trays to distribution centres in their neighbourhoods, from where they are delivered to survivors.
During COVID times, obviously food distribution was done according to all the Health Ministry regulations, demonstrating how dedicated the LeChiot B'Kavod volunteers are, as this took considerably more time and resources. Take action >>
The welfare of Holocaust survivors should be the responsibility of the state - it is therefore inconceivable that this is not so, and Holocaust survivors turn to welfare organizations, like LeChiot B'Kavod, for their basic, daily needs. Considering Israel is a Jewish state, founded by Holocaust survivors, this is a really absurd situation.
How can we allow elderly survivors - living in the modern Jewish state - in the last few years of their lives, experience the same hunger they did when they were children, starving in the concentration camps?
The stories are too sad to think about. There was Alex who had to choose between buying medicine and doing his basic weekly shopping and Bella, 87, from Haifa, who was left without her food subsidy because of a technical error by the authorities.
In Alex and Bella's time of desperation, LeChiot B'Kavod came to their rescue - cooking and distributing food to them, as they have done over the past 28 years. Indeed, the 1500 meals a day they have provided since their founding has cost a considerable amount of money and the budget is severely limited and running out fast.
In order for LeChiot B'Kavod’s crucial work to continue, enabling Holocaust survivors to live with dignity, they need your support.
So let's help Holocaust survivors TODAY on Yom Hashoah , while they are still will us, to continue living with dignity without feeling ashamed or hungry. Learn more and make a difference >>
Thanks to you they will smile a little and understand that they are still loved and cared for.