Poverty among the Holocaust survivors in Israel
Why do Holocaust survivors in Israel need financial support from the government ?
Mila Svitelman & Ilana Sahnovsky
Holocaust- almost every Israeli kid at kindergarten can tell us what it was and why it happened. Every year in April, Israel mentions the Holocaust Memorial Day, Martyrs' Remembrance Day. At this day, Israeli television shows documentary movies about the Holocaust, short movies about the victims and etc. At 20:00 pm, a memorial siren is being played and all the Jewish people in Israel have to stand silent for one minute (as a sign of remembrance). After the siren, Memorial Day comes to an end and people can return to their routine. It seems that Israel puts a full attention on the Holocaust issue. But if it’s really so, why there are still a lot of problems with the financial support which the country must give to the survivors who live in Israel? Why do we find that huge numbers of Jewish survivors who live under the poverty line in a country calling itself a Zionist and a Jewish country ?
The main question we are going to try and answer is- Why do Holocaust survivors in Israel need financial support from the government? We can find many answers to that question, and each and every one of them is enough to emphasize the importance of the government's financial support.
This project is probably one of the most important projects that we have ever done. We think that our research question never got enough attention, despite its huge importance. People, who suffered such a horrible thing as the Holocaust, are now living in poverty and keep suffering only because the minimal financial support that they are receiving. We found that issue shocking as well as unacceptable, and that's why we chose to write about this topic. We hope, that our project will change people’s point of view and would draw their attention towards this issue.
Facts, Figures and Statistics
The Holocaust was one of the most horrific events of the 20th century. The Jewish nation was haunted by the Nazis and paid a very valuable price - 6,000,000 Jewish lives. The holocaust ended in 1945 but the suffering is still fresh. 80,000 of the 260,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel are living under the poverty line, according to the Holocaust Survivors’ Welfare Fund, Ynetnews reported. That is almost a third of all Holocaust survivors in Israel. One-third of the Israel's holocaust survivors live in poverty, with little or no help and support. It seems that Israel remembers the Holocaust, but tends to forget its survivors. According to 2007 publications, some survivors in Israel get a monthly payment of about $600 from the German government. Others receive from the government an amount of $300 to 1000$ a month. And some of the survivors, who immigrated to Israel after 1953, receive nothing more than the national retirement allowance. Another important point is that the amount of money given to the survivors is decided by the authorities and it depends on the economic situation, family status and etc; and it sometimes added other benifits (such as returning money for medical expenses). Sometimes the money given by the government isn't enough to pay for basic necessities – not enough for an appropriate and stable living. It is important to mention that Israel officially sets the poverty line at an income of $500 a month which makes the holocaust survivors to continue struggling with life. One of the survivors' main difficulties stems from their poor access to information regarding their rights. At 2007, the law called for the establishment of an umbrella organization that would handle the assistance to survivors, but due to the delay in the transfer of funds, this plan remained on paper and the poverty issue again was left behind. It seems that still there isn't enough intent and maybe even preparedness to the situation in which the Holocaust survivors are in for more than 60 years! As long as Israel will not take the survivor’s poverty issue as one of the most important problems at the country, nothing would be changed and these people, which suffered enough at the Holocaust, will continue suffering and will die humiliated.
- (1$ = about 4 shekels)
Why do they need financial support ?
They survived the holocaust and arrived to Israel ready for new and better life. As it was already mentioned, many of them live under the poverty line, hoping to get that financial support they desperately need. Why do holocaust survivors need financial support from the government- is the main question which can explain us how important is this support for the survivors.
The first and the most important reason is the Holocaust. We all have to take into consideration, that all those people, which survived this tragedy, came to Israel without anything. People who before the Second World War had money, homes and property- remained without anything after the war. For any immigrant it is difficult to start a new life in a new country, but for the Holocaust survivors it was even harder. Most of them came to Israel alone- without families (because a huge number of people were killed and a lot of families were separated at the war). These survivors had not only to overcome over their trauma, but also try to live somehow without any property. Financial support from the government is the minimal help that the country can give these people, who without any normal reason, had lost everything- home, money and of course family. This support can help not only to these people, who are now very old and can’t work to finance themselves, but also show them that people remember and know that they have to receive a special treatment more than anybody else. The duty of Israel's government is to provide holocaust survivors the most convenient and optimal conditions in the everyday life (especially after what they had to go through). A unique emphasis needs to be put on the poverty issue among the holocaust survivors – the government shouldn't save up on them. "They have earned the right to get the minimum, to live a normal life and end their lives in an honorable way." (http://povertynewsblog.blogspot.com/2006/04/israel-many-israeli-holocaust.html).
The relatives are the main source of support. One of the manifestations of old age is the loss of close relatives, and principally widowhood. Over 40% of the survivors are single and most are widowed. There is a great difference in the family status of men and women: about a fifth (21%) of the men are single, as opposed to over half the women (56%). Furthermore, about a quarter of all the survivors live alone. The percentage of women living alone (32%) is 2.5 times greater than that of men (13%). Most of the Holocaust survivors have children. However, a considerable number of the survivors (19%) have no children, or children whom they see less than once a month. We must remember that some ot the Holocaust survivors came to Israel without families and not many of them could build a new family (many women who had survived, couldn’t have kids, because of the deep damages they suffered at the Holocaust). Because of that, they don’t have at present anybody who can support them financially. It can be said that a considerable percentage of the survivors cannot rely on assistance from relatives when required, and that is why the governments support is so important.
Another reason the survivors need the financial support is because of medical necessities. Statistics show that 70 percent of the holocaust survivors are older than 76, and 20 percent of them are older than 86. At those ages health isn't stabilized and health problems are constantly attacking people. Some of them are disabled; others have chronic problems, dental issues, hearing or visual problems, trouble with sleeping and so on. Many of them suffer from severe mental and medical problems due to the hardships and torture they experienced during the Second World War. The older they get the more medical problems and medical expenses they would have. Using medical treatments is supposed to support the human body, to fix the defects it has and to insure the person a healthier and sometimes even a longer life. All kinds of medications together with treatments and doctors' visits cost money. Those expenses can cost the person up to hundreds of shekels a month, which equals a great percentage of the total month expenses. It's important to remember that together with the medical costs, holocaust survivors also need to have money to pay for bills, food, clothes and other important stuff. In addition, 50,000 to 60,000 survivors are in need of nursing care-something which either costs the survivors money or the government. So if they don't get the government's financial support they would have to give up on one of the basic things they need to have. If the holocaust survivors don't get the medicine and medical devices necessary for them, they might have to go through a lot of pain and suffer and maybe even death would be the one to defeat them. "Israel has always been busy remembering the dead but forgetting the living," said Zeev Feiner, a spokesman for the welfare fund. (http://povertynewsblog.blogspot.com/2006/04/israel-many-israeli-holocaust.html) The Holocaust Survivors' Welfare Fund assists only about 30,000 survivors due to budget issues, although twice that number need care and financial support.
80,000 holocaust survivors in Israel live under the poverty line. A financial support from the government is desperately needed by all those 80,000. So why do Holocaust survivors in Israel need financial support from the government? After researching that question, we came to some conclusions:
First of all, the fact that so many survivors in Israel (80,000) are defined as poor and required a financial support may be caused by two things. It seems that the government does act for the survivors in Israel, gives away money for that cause and tries to support them financially, but if so- why are the numbers of poor among the survivors in Israel are that big? Maybe the government isn't doing enough; maybe its financial support isn't enough to keep all the holocaust survivors in Israel on their feet. But it is also possible that the problem may come from the survivors. It is possible that many of them aren't aware of their rights, and the financial support they can get from the government. So if they don't know about it, nothing can be claimed by them, and definitely nothing can be gotten.
There is no doubt that Holocaust survivors in Israel must receive a regular financial support, which will promise their existence in honor, and that is for three main reasons:
- The deep suffering and the total loss of life, family and property in the Holocaust, which happened without any justified reason.
- Those Holocaust survivors, who are still alive, are very old and most of them are sick people (because their advanced age and the trauma that hit them mentally and physically in the Second World War).
- Medical expenses cost a lot of money; and who else, if not the government, will give them that financial support. And that is in addition to the payment for other basic needs such as: food, clothes, bills etc.
- Some of the survivors don’t have even one family member in life, they are left all alone in this world, without any support.
And here should enter the government's role- it must take these problems into professional hands and help those Holocaust survivors, who are still alive.
Each year different figures are being published about the number of the Holocaust survivors, which are living under the poverty line. This fact can show us that as long as these survivors don't receive a regular financial support, they wouldn't be able to live normal lives, and they would continue suffering and maybe will even die because of these horrible conditions.
All the above mentioned are reasons to justify the survivors' right to get the financial support from the government. But we can conclude our words and say that as a Jewish country, Israel should see the financial support to the holocaust survivors as a must. After all our nation has been through, it is legitimate that the Israeli government should offer the maximum help and support to the survivors living in it. As the head authority, the government should provide the survivors in Israel a proper way of living- when the money won't be a deadly issue for them.
The holocaust was a huge event in the history of the Jewish nation, it ended in 1945, but it seems to still be haunting its survivors. Writing about the holocaust and about issues connected to it was very significant for us. It didn't take us long to decide about our research question, because we knew that nobody would think about the issue of poverty among the holocaust survivors in Israel, and here was the problem which guided us towards our research question- why isn't this issue getting enough attention from the Jewish citizens and Israeli government?
Each year, on the Holocaust memorial day we see on TV or read in the newspapers that many of the holocaust survivors in Israel live under the poverty line. That information is something we can't ignore, and it sometimes makes us wonder in which country we live in. So we have finally decided to research things ourselves and understand better what is really going on. It was difficult to write about the topic we chose. We weren't only presenting and discussing fact and figures, we were actually talking about people, live human beings who are deep in trouble.
Can they survive it?
They lived in Europe
and they had typical lives.
Then comes Hitler
and horror arrives.
Millions of souls,
millions of lives
all were damaged
and stabbed with deadly knives.
Some survivors came to Israel
hoping to start a new page.
But they didn't expect the problems at an advanced age.
The government isn't paying them enough,
and their lives are really tough.
They really need the money
and they desperately need the support,
but nobody seems to care a lot.
Some of these survivors are all alone
others feel they won't live for that long.
Health is an issue
and age is as well,
but with no money they live in hell.
80,000 survivors in Israel live under the poverty line-
and we should see it as a warning sign.
We can't let them die because they can't pay for stuff!
That situation has lasted long enough!
A year ago, when I was 16 years old, two friends and I volunteered at a house of a Holocaust survivor, as a part of a project called: “Flower for the survivor”. We visited our survivor for a year and we learned a lot from her; the most important thing that we’ve learned is how important life is and that we have to bless our lives, because there were a lot of innocent people, who lost their lives without any reason.
At the end of the year, we drove to Haifa in order to participate in a ceremony of ending the project. At this ceremony, Holocaust survivor- Aharon Rozner read in front of all the audience a letter, which wrote some Holocaust survivors for all the volunteers and for all those who will continue to live in this world after the survivors and will tell their stories. I choose to translate this letter as a part of the category, of creative work:
“Our kids, our grandsons as beans of light, are illuminating our ways with the joy of life, which is filling our hearts with soul energy, are adding years to our lives and lives to years. But, as long as we are climbing on the ladder of years, the number of the survivors is decreasing. In some not many more years, there will be not even one parson on the universe, who would indicate: “I was at the valley of death, my eyes saw these terrible selections, how our families persecuted to the gas chambers. At my ears are reverberating heart- rending shouts of persecutes”. This memorialization can’t be stopped. Their death ordered us “tell your children, continue our story”. Their testament is a candle to our lags- witness after our death.
Grandson is an asset
We are proud and happy that we won and were blessed to live in a positive generation, intellectual, wise and reasonable generation, supervised, that knows how to success in every field of life; generation which knows how to make our country, Israel, beautiful. You are lucky to born as free citizens with full rights as proud Israelis and not as humiliated Jews, as persecuted “G’idim” (derogatory name of Jews in Europe). Our grandsons, you are completing the most important ethical obligation with your supreme deeds.
Human being must be humanity to another human.
We, the survivors, are passing the memorial torch to your trustworthy hands, to continue remember and not forget never.
Thank you sincerely for your help and volunteering, but we are entitled to demand from our grandsons to continue volunteering in order to make the mankind better.
We can’t stop this volunteering
With honor and blessing
Aharon Rozner “
An Interview with David, from the "Aviv" organization (which acts for the rights of the holocaust survivors in Israel).
Hello. We are students from the 11th grade, Ort Gutman, Netanya. As part of our bagrut project, we are studying about the holocaust, and the topic we chose to research was the holocaust survivors in Israel who live under the poverty line. To be more specific, our research question is- Why do Holocaust survivors in Israel need financial support from the government? We would be glad if you answer the following questions.
Q: Who deserves to get financial support? Do only the holocaust survivors get it (the ones who were in concentration or other kinds of camps, etc.), or does this support also includes the people who had to run away and leave everything behind?
A: Basically, most of the people who get the financial support are the ones who had survived the ghettos, the concentration camps and etc. But there also cases when the ones who had to escape under special circumstances (for example: Teheran children) get that money.
Q: How much money does the country give the Holocaust survivors?
A: The amount of money given is between 1000 shekels and 4107 shekels. I have to add some more benefits, some of them are difficult to quantify, like the returning of medical expenses.
Q: Is the money support equal for all survivors, or is it decided by the health stage or family status of the survivor?
A: There is a decided amount of money (it's a law from about one and a half years ago) and there is also a certain amount of money which is decided by the disability percentage and economic situation (something which is most common, about 40,000 survivors).
Q: What are the main reasons the Holocaust survivors need financial support?
A: Because of the deep suffering at the war, the Holocaust survivors became handicapped people and this is why they couldn’t work and earn as normal people, who didn’t go throw the Holocaust tragedy.
Q: What is the number, as it as know to you, of the holocaust survivors in Israel who live under the poverty line?
A: Each year different figures are being publicized. But I can say that about one third of the holocaust survivors, living in Israel, live under the poverty line- that mean 80,000 survivors. And we meet a lot of them.
Q: Why, in your opinion, there are still a lot of complaints of Holocaust survivors, who live under the poverty line, even thought that we are 60 years after the war?
A: It's normal that a handicapped parson can exist when he or she is young and able to work, but when this parson gets older he or she is less capable. At the age of pension there are no insertions, because all these years that person got less money than someone who wasn’t a survivor, and he couldn’t economize. I’m not sure that you right about the big present of complaints, maybe you think like this because today we talk and hear more about this. In the past, Holocaust survivors were an issue that people didn’t talk about. Many people didn’t know what the Holocaust survivors went throw till the trial of Adolf Eichmann; they simply didn’t hear about those who went straightforwardly the death, without resistance.
Q: What are the actions done by the country in order to promise the financial support to the holocaust survivors in Israel?
A: There are many plans which try to assist the holocaust survivors. Maybe it's not enough for a single survivor, but in total – a lot of money is given in that purpose (at least 100 million shekels) every month. There is a problem that the holocaust survivors aren't aware of what they deserve, from who and how they are supposed to get it. This is the part we deal with- utilization of the rights they deserve by the law. A lot of explaining and guidance is done; especially for volunteers, families and social workers. And except from the government's support, there are survivors who get a pension directly from Germany and other countries (for example: Holland).
Thank you very much for sharing that information with us.
•We got the answers by connecting with the "Aviv" organization through the internet.
http://avivshoa.co.il/index.php?UrlID_Category=43 •The interview was done in Hebrew, and then translated to English.
http://avivshoa.co.il/index.php?UrlID_Category=43 - Site which deals with rights of Holocaust survivors in Israel
http://k-shoa.org/Eng/?CategoryID=173&ArticleID=165 - The Foundation the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel/ Holocaust Survivors in Israel - general information
http://povertynewsblog.blogspot.com/2006/04/israel-many-israeli-holocaust.html - Poverty News Blog/ Many Israeli Holocaust survivors live in poverty
http://web.israelinsider.com/Articles/Briefs/11144.htm - A third of Holocaust survivors in Israel live in poverty
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/apr2007/holo-a18.shtml - One third of Holocaust survivors live in poverty