Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved Monday a budget to fund government allowances to 120,000 elderly Holocaust survivors living in Israel.
An inter-ministerial committee headed by Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog drafted a plan under which millions of shekels would be funneled to assist thousands of Holocaust survivors aged over 70.
The plan allocates NIS 130 million in financial assistance to Holocaust survivors next year. The figure will be almost doubled to NIS 205 million in 2009 and NIS 300 million a year later.
The allowances come in addition to state pensions and other social benefits claimed by the survivors.
"We have fixed an injustice that lasted for 60 years. Holocaust survivors living in Israel are entitled to live in dignity instead of being unable to afford a warm meal," Olmert told committee members.
The government took on the task of improving the living conditions of Israel's Holocaust survivors after a number of media reports exposed the dire conditions in which most survivors were living.
“I welcome the fact that the prime minister sat down with a group of ministers and decided to help the country’s biggest victims, but I don’t understand why things that should and can be resolved immediately aren’t,” said Noah Flug, chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors.
“I heard the solution will only be provided in the 2008 budget. These people (survivors) are old and they must be helped at once,” he said. “In five years’ time there will be no one left to help. They’ll all be in cemeteries.”
Gregory Fegis of the organization of Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors in Israel said he was skeptical of the government’s decision.
“People believe the media reports and think they will see the decision’s results in their bank accounts as early as tomorrow, but in actuality there is only a proposal, and knowing the Israeli political system – it is doubtful whether it will be implemented,” he said.