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Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Photo: AP
Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Photo: AP
 
Holocaust survivors (archives) Photo: Gil Yohanan
Holocaust survivors (archives) Photo: Gil Yohanan
 
 

Shoah survivors hoard food in face of financial crisis

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, some 230,000 survivors live in Israel, 60,000 are poor. Dark clouds of economic crisis, which has hampered aid groups, now added to their daily struggle of living with dignity

Yael Branovsky
Published: 01.27.09, 08:30 / Israel News

Sad news is pouring in from Israel's Holocaust survivors on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, some 60,000 of the 230,000 Holocaust survivors living in the Jewish state are counted amongst the poor and needy.

 

The organization's acting Director Guy Afari told Ynet that social workers working in the field have encountered a new phenomenon – Holocaust survivors hoarding food in their houses out of an existential fear stemming from news of the ensuing economic downturn in Israel.

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"The economic crisis has seriously affected Holocaust survivors as well, for whom every day is a struggle to begin with," said Afari. "Many of them rely on the aid of organizations, which are on the verge of collapse.

 

"Lay-offs in the market have decreased families' abilities to help their loved ones, something that infiltrates a sense of instability into their lives.

 

"The thoughts that pass through their heads – mainly because of their experiences – are that a decrease in the amount of food means death. Even the missiles and sirens during the war reminded them of the most horrible times."

 

Pircha Wiesel, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor from Ashkelon, told Ynet that the sirens brought back very difficult memories from her past. "It reminded me of the war that I experienced. Throughout that entire time period I felt helpless. I am very sick and couldn't run to the shelter.

 

"I rent my apartment, and that's a lot of money for me. I don't even have a television. I can't allow myself all the medications that I need, but I understand that the state has a lot of other needs besides helping me, so I make do with what there is. I feel that they try to help, but not always on time. So I just sit at home and wait. After all, I don't have a lot of time left," she said.

 

Otto Goldman, 76, of Beersheba, is also troubled by his health and economic status and that he cannot help his children the way he would like.

 

"I have a sister who still lives in Hungary and doesn't want to come to Israel," he said. "She has free healthcare there, and she also gets free medication. The State of Israel was established thanks to the survivors' money, and I don't have enough money right now even for all the medications that I need. I don't even remember the last time I bought underwear and a shirt."

 

Need more than bread and water

Yaron Shamir, the CEO of the umbrella organization that has more than 60 organizations that help survivors under it, explained in a conversation with Ynet that the organizations that give aid in the form of nursing care and treat the psychological needs of the survivors are still managing to survive because they are supported by the government. Dozens of other organizations have been shut down or on the verge of closing.

 

"It is very important to maintain the dignity of Holocaust survivors, and it's not just bread and water that they need. Holocaust survivors have minimal needs – to meet in clubhouses, to converse, to commemorate what they have been through and to pass it on to future generations. This is what we are fighting for," explained Shamir.

 

According to Shamir, the organizations that are suffering have been caught in a vicious cycle that is very difficult to get out of. He said that because of their limited budget, such organizations have not been able to meet their everyday expenses, such as municipal property tax, or paying for certain licenses.

 

As a result, the government reportedly is not willing to help them because they do not have the proper authorizations in place.

 

Government offices were slated to initiate a large campaign intended to explain to Holocaust survivors in Israel that they must contact a central calling center in order to see if their rights are being realized.

  

However, no legal authorization was granted for this campaign because of the upcoming elections, so the campaign is on the back burner until Israel elects a new government.

 

In the meantime, about 30 Holocaust survivors pass away every day.

 

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