Galina Perevozkina is an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor living in Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv who observed with frustration the arrival of world leaders in Israel to attend an event marking 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
“I fail to understand why [the event is taking place],” she said. "I think instead of spending money on such events, they should have invested in care for us, the old people who are survivors of the Holocaust."
What survivors need, she said, are “increased stipends and not glamorous receptions."
There are 192,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel today, of whom 48,000 live below the poverty line.
According to official data released by the Finance Ministry's department for Holocaust survivors’ rights, 67% live on a monthly stipend of just a few hundred shekels, and 33% have a monthly income of several thousand.
In 2019, 14,800 survivors died, constituting an average of 41 deaths a day and 1,233 each month.
Of Holocaust survivors in Israel, 39% are over the age of 85, 16% over 90 and 0.4% are over 100 years of age.
"Our physical and financial situation is very difficult," says 79-year-old Boris Verbovetsky, a blind Holocaust survivor from Beit Shemesh who immigrated from Russia 30 years ago.
"We live off the national insurance stipend because I have no pension from Russia and it is not easy to survive on that," Boris says, adding that he and his wife live on just NIS 5,000 a month.
"It is not only the money that is a problem, it is being alone and wanting some warmth," he says.
Daniel Hanoch, aged 88, was also critical of the World Holocaust Forum event and its organizers at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
"Such an event should have found a way for the world leaders to meet survivors," he says. “The State of Israel took the reparation money [from Germany after WWII]and forgot the survivors who had to fight for a minimal existence.
They robbed us of our money and that is a crime. Many survivors have no money for medication. What do we have left? How long will we still be alive?
"Most of my friends are dead now, they did not receive any help when they needed it."
Hanoch says he has called for a dramatic increase in stipends for survivors.
Philanthropic organizations, many of which work with Holocaust survivors, agree.
“As commendable as it is to see world leaders honor the memory of the Holocaust, there are still survivors living among us in Israel and around the world, and to our shame, they exist in dismal conditions," says Yael Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
Moshe Cohen, CEO of Chasdei Naomi, a non-profit that offers help for the underprivileged, says that Holocaust survivors in Israel are freezing to death.
This, he says, is “heartbreaking.”