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Number of Holocaust survivors in Israel needing financial aid is going up

State comptroller says funds designated for survivors not being dispensed, raps authorities for not surveying their needs: ‘Time is running out’

Attendees, including Holocaust survivors, at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020. Their faces lined by age and haunting memories, about 100 Holocaust survivors joined political leaders in Jerusalem to recall the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp 75 years earlier. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)
Illustrative: Attendees, including Holocaust survivors, at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)

The number of Holocaust survivors in Israel requiring financial assistance has risen in recent years, according to a report released by the national ombudsman on Monday.

The State Comptroller report, a follow-up to a 2017 report it issued, also faulted authorities for not sufficiently “mapping the needs” of Holocaust survivors or using all the funds designated for them.

According to the report, there are now 51,175 survivors who receive yearly grants — 70 percent of the total — who require additional financial benefits “to live with dignity,” up from 67% in 2017. Along with those who survived the Holocaust in Europe, the figure includes “victims of harassment” — survivors of the 1941 “Farhud” pogrom in Baghdad and Jews who lived in Algeria and Morocco when anti-Semitic laws were in effect under the pro-Nazi Vichy regime.

“The Finance Ministry and the [Holocaust Survivors’] Authority still have not found a solution to improving the financial situation,” State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman wrote, adding that the problem “was not fixed and even worsened.”

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, Israel, January 23, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Englman noted that at the time of the last report, the Holocaust Survivors’ Authority was not conducting in-depth survey of survivors’ physical, mental and financial needs. Though it has since designated funds to do so, only 22% have been surveyed.

He said between 2018 and 2019, the Welfare Ministry only disbursed 30% of the NIS 30 million ($8.8 million) set aside for survivors eligible to receive income assistance.

“Due to the partial utilization of ‘the plan for the needy’ budget, survivors were prevented from receiving services that could improve their welfare,” Englman said.

The report also said the Finance Ministry and Holocaust Survivors’ Authority had not worked to provide additional nursing assistance to those fighting the Nazis, criticized an inter-ministerial team set up to coordinate assistance for Holocaust survivors for not holding regular meetings, and expressed concerns of a lack of funding for distress buttons.

Illustrative: Joseph Kleinman, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who survived Auschwitz and Dachau Nazi death camp wearing a face mask and holding an Israeli flag at his porch in Jerusalem, during the Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 21, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Throughout history Israeli governments have worked extensively to help Holocaust survivors in Israel,” Engelman said. “But despite this praiseworthy activity, some of the needs of Holocaust survivors haven’t been properly provided for. Time is running out, the number of survivors is declining.”

He added: “[Survivors] who experienced the events of the Holocaust are entitled to live the rest of their lives honorably and receive the recognition they deserve.”

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