Members of the Knesset’s Health and Welfare Committee were shocked into silence Monday when an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor who lost patience with the proceedings blasted the government for wasting time on endless debates, while abandoning survivors to die in poverty.
“What you’re doing to the survivors is a crime and a disgrace. [Former prime minister David] Ben-Gurion made a pact, promising we would receive money for the rest of our lives,” said Tivon resident Dora Roth, who immigrated to Israel in 1952 after losing her family and enduring WWII-Europe as a child.
“What have you done with the money?” demanded Roth, pointing her finger at the attending politicians. “Seeing a Holocaust survivor who can’t afford to heat his home in the winter and can’t afford to buy food or medicine is your disgrace. I don’t care about your committees. They mean nothing to us. I came all the way here to ask you one thing: Let us die in dignity.”
The committee met for a special hearing on improving the welfare and living conditions of Holocaust survivors, following the publication of grim numbers that came out of a recent survey. According to the survey, conducted by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel and released earlier this month, 67 percent of survivors are dissatisfied with the way Israeli governments have handled their needs and 22% say the treatment has been getting worse. Nearly half the respondents said they have health problems that influence their daily lives, and a quarter said they face financial difficulties.
According to the report, some 192,000 Holocaust survivors currently live in Israel; 37 of them die every day.
“We must put an end to this disgrace,” committee chairman Haim Katz (Likud) said, vowing he would place an expedited bill on the Knesset table to bring the treatment of Holocaust survivors under a single authority.
The chairman of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, former Shin Bet chief and Kadima MK Avi Dichter, said that “within 10 years, we will need to treat a very small number of survivors. The question is, how do we honor the survivors while they are still alive?”
Deputy Finance Minister Micky Levi (Yesh Atid) said that “when the needs are determined, we will find the suitable budgets for them, despite the current budgetary deficit.”
In one of his first actions as finance minister last month, Yair Lapid ordered the transfer of more than NIS 50 million ($13 million) to the foundation. The money was earmarked for quality-of-life needs for aging survivors, including at-home nursing care.
The allocation reportedly was part of the government coalition deal that Lapid’s Yesh Atid party struck with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The agreement is set to raise the amount of money allocated to survivors over the next four years.