Bureaucracy Lags Behind Promises of Fire Compensation

YERUSHALAYIM -

Despite promises of speedy compensation from the Israeli government, homeless victims of last week’s Haifa fires say they are having a hard time obtaining financial help, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

For example, Haifa resident David Halilov, 60, whose apartment burned down, has so far been unable to clarify what the government will do for him.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said that those who can’t return home because of fire damage are entitled to a 2,500-shekel stipend, but the word may not have filtered down to ministry officials who are charged with actually disbursing the money.

“My apartment has to be completely repaired. Who will take care of it? I don’t know. How much will they pay? I don’t know,” said Halilov. “They are keeping the cards close to their chests and we don’t even know with whom to speak with and even when we speak to the Israel Tax Authority they give us answers like we are children.”

Of the 175 buildings in Haifa damaged by the fires, 100 are now uninhabitable, leaving over 500 people without a permanent roof over their heads.

Halilov, only one of the 500, is meanwhile staying in a Haifa-area hotel with his wife. His application for compensation is still pending.

“I went to the city hall, to register [for the stipend], and still they are telling me that I am not on the list of people that are entitled,” said Halilov, adding that he was told to wait 48 hours for a decision.

In response to the bureaucratic sluggishness, a Haifa spokesman said, the municipality is in close contact with victims and putting them in touch with legal counsel.

“Tonight we arranged a meeting for people who can’t go back to their homes with lawyers and people who can guide the residents about their rights,” the spokesman said, adding, “Many wake up in the morning and don’t know whom to turn to.”