Holocaust survivors’ organization rails against state neglect

Holocaust survivors’ organization rails against state neglect

Report finds 13,000 survivors die every year; former minister Avi Dichter calls lack of proper care an ‘irrevocable mistake’

An unidentified Holocaust survivor sits holding his cane in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial complex in Jerusalem (photo credit: Pierre Terdjman/Flash90)
An unidentified Holocaust survivor sits holding his cane in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial complex in Jerusalem (photo credit: Pierre Terdjman/Flash90)

By 2017, some 40,000 Holocaust survivors currently living in Israel will have died, according to a new report released by The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel on Wednesday, ahead of next week’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

At a press conference at the foundation’s offices in Tel Aviv, Avi Dichter, a former home front defense minister and the incoming chairman of the foundation, said, “The mistake of not caring for Holocaust survivors in a determined way, and not giving them the proper respect while they are still alive, is an irrevocable mistake. And as a people, as a state, we cannot allow ourselves to make this mistake.

“In my opinion, giving Holocaust survivors the means to subsist in dignity while they are still alive is the mission, the goal, the target,” he said.

Dichter spoke at the conference along with the foundation’s outgoing chairman, MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), and its general manager, Roni Kalinsky. All three called on the government to do more to improve the lots of Holocaust survivors, citing the insufficient care they are currently receiving.

According to a survey presented in the report, some 67 percent of Holocaust survivors expressed dissatisfaction with the way Israeli governments have handled their needs, believing more could have been and can still be done to improve their conditions. The year 2012 saw a 7% increase, compared to 2011, in the number of Holocaust survivors in need of nursing care.

According to the report, some 192,000 Holocaust survivors currently live in Israel; 37 of them die every day.

The authorities have consistently been criticized over the years by activists and government officials alike for not doing more to help Holocaust survivors. NGOs and volunteers have often stepped in to fill the void left by the government.

Earlier this year, the foundation published a report that found that one in four Holocaust survivors lives below the poverty line, and 58% of those who requested financial assistance subsisted on NIS 3,000 a month (about $830).

Last month, in one of his first actions as finance minister, Yair Lapid ordered the transfer of more than NIS 50 million ($13 million) to the foundation. The money will go to meeting 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 reportedly raises the amount of money allocated to survivors over the next four years.

Earlier this month, the foundation said it had cut three hours of nursing services a week for survivors due to a large budget shortfall.

JTA contributed to this report. 

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