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Israel extends Holocaust pension to over 8,000 unrecognized survivors

Report says lack of Hebrew literacy or knowledge of eligibility among reasons many survivors find themselves without financial aid

A yellow Star of David Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis, is seen with other belongings of Holocaust survivors from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp that are on display at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2005 (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
A yellow Star of David Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis, is seen with other belongings of Holocaust survivors from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp that are on display at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2005 (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

Over the past three years, the Social Equality Ministry has managed to identify some 8,300 Holocaust survivors who had yet to receive a special state pension, according to data released ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Israel is home to some 165,800 recognized Holocaust survivors and victims of antisemitism during World War II.

According to a Channel 12 news report Sunday, many of those survivors did not receive the stipend because they were unaware of their eligibility. The total amount of unexercised benefits was estimated at around NIS 1 billion ($317 million).

Among the reasons are that many of the survivors have low Hebrew literacy or lack familiarity with the changes in eligibility conditions, with some previously not interested in financial assistance and now unable to request it.

“We are not content to just respond and provide service to the survivors who contact us, but conduct tests and investigations to proactively reach those who have yet to receive what they deserve,” Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen said.

The number of Holocaust survivors in Israel requiring financial assistance has risen in recent years, exacerbated further by the coronavirus pandemic, many of whose victims were elderly survivors.

Holocaust survivor Motti Liber, 88, receives care from a volunteer on the premises of the Yad Ezer L’Haver foundation, which supports survivors of the Holocaust by providing them food as well as medical and psychological assistance, in Haifa on January 24, 2021. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

A survey released last year ahead of Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day found that over half of the Holocaust survivors living in Israel require food handouts, with many saying they don’t have the funds to pay for essentials such as eyeglasses and hearing aids.

In a poll conducted by the Holocaust Survivors’ Welfare Fund, 51 percent of respondents said they relied on food given to them by various charities, with a third saying they were in “dire need” of the assistance.

According to the poll, many Holocaust survivors say they are forced to give up essentials in order to have enough money for food. Forty-three percent of respondents said they didn’t have enough money for glasses, 33% said they couldn’t afford dental care and 27% said they couldn’t pay for hearing aids.

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