Israel’s annual day of Holocaust remembrance has focused national attention not only on the destruction of European Jewry during World War II, but also the plight of Holocaust survivors in Israel today.
As part of a renewed effort to provide much-needed assistance, Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) on Tuesday announced that 50 new homes would be built in eastern Yerushalayim to house Holocaust survivors.
“These 50 homes, which will be added to those existing homes for the elderly in east Talpiot, will be earmarked for survivors,” he told Voice of Israel Radio.
On Monday, the Knesset Caucus for Holocaust Survivors decried a bureaucratic disarray in handling benefits for survivors and called upon the government to do more to take care of those few who remain.
Welfare Minister Meir Cohen called it an “embarrassment” that there is a discrepancy of tens of thousands in the numbers his ministry and the Finance Ministry have for living survivors.
“This does not suit the state of Israel…We’ll change the rules of the game and give them respect,” he pledged, calling for the government offices and NGOs dealing with survivors to create a single combined list to facilitate their well-being.
Much of the Caucus conference was about the many survivors the government does not recognize and who do not receive state benefits.
“The problem with this issue is that everyone agrees on it, so when push comes to shove, [no one is passionate enough] and it doesn’t get taken care of,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein lamented. “I hope this caucus, and Knesset committees and government offices will be able to give a green light to all of the aid initiatives.”
Earlier in the week, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced a substantial transfer of monies for survivors, promising again that the government will do whatever necessary to see to it they live out their lives in dignity.
MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid), who organized the conference together with MKs Elazar Stern (Hatnua) and Dov Henin (Hadash), called it a “moral imperative to make sure there is not one Holocaust survivor in the State of Israel who is unable to live in a worthy, dignified way.”
Meanwhile, Magen David Adom announced that a fund established last year to provide for Holocaust survivors in need of ambulatory services has been able to help them significantly, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Standard health insurance covers some ambulance expenses, but not cases that are not considered emergencies.
About 192,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel today, but some 1,000 die each month. Many cannot afford the fees charged for non-emergency trips to hospitals, health clinics, National Insurance Institute offices and other institutions.
During the past year, the fund has received dozens of applications for financial assistance, MDA said.
The organization’s “Friends” association in France set up the fund, in collaboration with MDA’s “Friends” in Britain.