The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel announced Tuesday it would stop providing nursing services for thousands of survivors living in Israel due to financial troubles, the fund's director-general, Dubby Harel, told a press conference on Tuesday.
Moreover, the fund will no longer offer grants for the purchase of prosthetics, dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids and medical drugs not included in the state’s ‘medicine basket.’
The fund was established in 1994 to assist disadvantaged Holocaust survivors in financial and health-related distress. Most of the funds come from U.S. contributors via the Claims Conference.
30 percent in poverty
Only four percent of the fund’s budget comes from the Finance Ministry.
“We approved assistance for 21,500 survivors in 2005, but there are about 280,000 survivors living in Israel today. Some 30 percent of them live beneath the poverty line,” Harel said.
Zeev Factor, the fund’s chairman, called the freezing of the fund’s activities a “disgrace,” adding, “I don’t know what to tell the 20,000 Holocaust survivors who will not be able to purchase hearing aids, dentures and drugs not included in the ‘medicine basket’… I can’t sleep at night… I knocked on every door I could, in Israel and abroad, but to no avail.
“We all understand that the issue of supporting Holocaust survivors is not an economic, but a moral problem,” he added.
'Where is Amir Peretz?'
Factor chastised Israel’s politicians fior what he called a lack of concern about the survivors’ plight.
“We are in the midst of an election campaign, everyone is talking about weaker elements of society. Where is Amir Peretz? Where is Ehud Olmert who eats at soup kitchens? Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speaks of compassion but ignores requests to intervene,” he said.
In reaction, Avraham Pressler, the Israeli representative of the Claims Conference, said it was not his organization's responsibility to care for elderly Israelis.
"Our organization donates some 200 million shekels for the benefit of Holocaust survivors in Israel. But the state also has to help. At the end of the day we only donate. We are not state-appointed guardians for the elderly population. Take your question to the finance ministry," he said.
Pressler also detailed some of the organization's donations: "Some 36 million dollars meant to provide nursing care for thousands of Holocaust survivors for the rest of their lives, 500,000 dollars fits emergency call buttons into survivor's homes, there are 2.5 million dollars for post-operative home health care, and they also have personal grants," said Pressler.
“Must we not commemorate (the Holocaust) so the younger generation will learn about what the Germans did? About what happened in the Holocaust? That said, we admire the work done by the Foundation of the Benefit of Nazi victims.”