Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day but forgets the survivors: pension of NIS 4,000 a year

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by Ifi Reporter Category:Government Apr 8, 2021

The state opening national event to mark Holocaust Martyrs 'and Heroes' Remembrance Day was held Wednesday night at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The ceremony was attended by President Reuven  Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset and chief justice of the Supreme Court Ester chayut. This year's ceremony was marked by the phrase "until the last Jew - 80 years since the beginning of the mass extermination." In his speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nuclear talks with Iran - and sent a message to the United States: "An agreement with Iran will not bind us."
 President Rivlin opened his speech with the story of Hungarian-born Elizabeth Guttman who "was a young girl when World War II broke out. As early as 1943, Elizabeth was sent with her sisters and parents to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her parents and three younger sisters perished in the camp. Elizabeth survived and survived. At the end of the war, she returned to the village of her childhood, and married Sandor - who also lost his family. "

The State of Israel likes to say that it cares for the Holocaust survivors living in its vicinity, about 174.5 thousand people. Despite this, most of them receive a meager pension of NIS 4,000 a year, or NIS 333 a month.
Not all Holocaust survivors are equal in the eyes of the benefits policy. About 54,000 of the surviving survivors are those who immigrated to Israel until 1953, survived in camps or ghettos, or lived under a false identity. These are entitled to a monthly allowance, which is between NIS 2,435 and NIS 6,160, depending on their degree of disability. About 16,000 of them receive an increased pension, which can reach up to NIS 11,200 a month.
But these are not the only Holocaust survivors. Over the years, the state has recognized other survivors, who are divided into two groups: about 61,000 of them immigrated after 1953, including many immigrants from the former Soviet Union and another 59,000 people from Arab immigrants, led by former finance minister Moshe Kahlon. These two groups, which together number about 127,000 survivors, receive an annual pension from the state - which is much less generous than that of those who immigrated until 1953, and amounts to about NIS 333 in monthly calculation.
The group of immigrants after 1953 is characterized by severe poverty - 70% of the survivors, or about 47,000 people, are entitled to an income guarantee, in other words living below the poverty line. Many of these survivors came to Israel in old age and without a pension.
The gap in the pension between Holocaust survivors from the first group and the other survivors can reach tens of thousands of shekels a year. "The State Comptroller's report published in November 2020 warned of this huge gap, from which the survivors have been suffering for many years," says Yael Mevorach, director general of the Ministry of Social Equality.
Not only is there a significant gap between the groups at the level of benefits, but also in the additional rights to which they are entitled. For example, the holders of the monthly allowance (survivors who immigrated to Israel until 1953) are entitled to participate in maintaining a telephone line (approximately NIS 400 per year), an annual convalescence grant (NIS 2,200 per year), home assistance for demented seniors (approximately NIS 800 per year), assistance with medical equipment (NIS 380 per year) and a survivor's pension (NIS 10,000). All of these are not entitled to the recipients of the annual allowance. However, they are entitled to NIS 432 per year for mental health care - 25% of the amount given to survivors who are entitled to a monthly pension.
Recipients of the annual allowance are also not entitled to additional conditions that those in need receive from the monthly allowance, including a discount on water or electricity. Since about 70% of them receive an income support allowance, they receive the discounts thanks to it - except that the other 30% are not entitled to them. They are also not entitled to a post-mortem grant of NIS 1,600; Or a grant for a needy survivor in the amount of NIS 11,000. They are also entitled to additional nursing hours, as well as an exemption from deductibles for the purchase of medicines in the health basket.
Not only is the discrimination in the granting of rights jarring, but also the fact that when the rights are granted - they are not exhausted by those who need them. Orly Sivan, director general of the Aviv Association for Holocaust Survivors, which operates rights enforcement centers, claims that "even today in 2021, about half of the Holocaust survivors do not exhaust all the rights they are entitled to by law. The rights are granted by various bodies in Israel and around the world and are updated and changed from time to time, so there is a lack of awareness among Holocaust survivors about changes and updates in their rights.
"Even when Holocaust survivors are aware of rights updates, they have difficulty exercising them and need close guidance and personal assistance. Even family members often find it difficult to carry out the process independently. Today, the average age of Holocaust survivors is 85, and they need assistance more than ever." As much as possible for their home. "
Data from the Authority for the Rights of Holocaust Survivors show that the exercise of rights is indeed partial. Despite the increase in the age of the survivors, only 60% of those who need the special allowance to help survivors suffering from dementia do receive it. The reason for this, according to senior sources in the authority, is the finance ministry's opposition to easing the bureaucratic procedure required to receive the grant.
The average age of Holocaust survivors recognized by the Holocaust Survivors' Rights Authority is 84.5 years. 18% of them, about 31,000 people, have passed the age of 90, and about 900 of them are already 100 or older. 60% of the survivors are women.
The Holocaust Survivors' Rights Authority has been running the "Now is the Time" initiative to alleviate loneliness among Holocaust survivors since 2017, together with the JDC Eshel organization. The project is budgeted at NIS 3 million a year. It employs about 6,000 volunteers who come weekly to the homes of Holocaust survivors, to be a listening ear and dispel their loneliness.
In the past year, in the shadow of the corona plague, the challenges faced by the survivors have increased, as has the growing sense of loneliness. The volunteers maintained telephone contact with the survivors, and assisted in meeting the needs that arose from the field. Unlike in the past, in the past year the project has endeavored to attach a permanent volunteer to the survivors - with the understanding that with alternating volunteers it is more difficult for the survivors to form a meaningful social connection.
The program's initiators recently distributed satisfaction questionnaires to 909 people, who are about 15% of the program participants. 86% of the respondents to the questionnaires reported that the visit of the regular volunteer once a week significantly or very significantly reduced the feeling of loneliness.

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