Some 20 Holocaust survivors protested
Sunday in front of the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, against planned budget cuts that will affect the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.
The protesters held signs reading: "I have to choose between paying the electricity bill, getting dental care or buying food" and "Steinitz, I hope you can keep warm at night – we are freezing."
Over the weekend, the Finance Ministry
announced it will suspend the transfer of NIS 2 million (roughly $ 524,000) destined to cover the foundation's 2012 budget.
The foundation said that as a result it has no choice but to cut some of the services it provides survivors, including shutting down offices in Haifa and Beersheba.
In November, Ynet reported that the foundation's financial aid was frozen, hindering assistance given to more than 8,000 survivors who depend on it to cover medical bills.
Holocaust survivors protest. (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The Finance Ministry said that the financial aid to various Holocaust survivors' foundations increased from NIS 30 million (roughly $7.9 million) in 2007 to NIS 210 million (roughly $55 million) in 2012 and that "The foundation is free to choose how to distribute its funds, depending on set criteria, just as any other financially supported foundation does, and it must plan ahead how to do so."
Protest in Jerusalem (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
One of the protesters said: "The state uses funds provided by Germany for constructing buildings and buying cars instead of giving them to those who deserve the money and need it. It is unfair, unjust and immoral."
Ester Miron, of the Organization of Hungarian Jews, said
that the plan to stop funding organizations aiding Holocaust survivors is plain injustice: "Give us these funds so we can distribute them amongst the many who are in need. Holocaust survivors need these funds to pay for dental care, glasses and electricity – if we don't have a warm winter there is no hope for us," she said.
Holocaust survivor Batia Rapaport said: "The people protesting here are the ones that built Israel. Why do they have to beg for aid to pay for their basic needs? Those at the cabinet should allow these people the end their lives with dignity; all of them are over 80 years old."
Another Holocaust survivor said that many survivors do not receive financial aid due to arbitrary criteria. "We are here today also for those who cannot stand here, asking Finance Ministry to stop discrimination between survivors," He added.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who is also the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Assisting Holocaust Survivors, announced Sunday that he intended to work in favor of resolving the disagreements between Finance Ministry and the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims, and initiate parliamentary discussions on the matter.
"Despite the fact that the Knesset is on hiatus, the Knesset cannot remain indifferent to this issue or to the state of Holocaust survivors in general, and must find a way to solve this crisis," Rivlin said.
Omri Efraim contributed to this report
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