Exactly one year ago, the horrid situation of Holocaust survivors residing in Israel was revealed, and a public struggle to better their condition was launched.
Some 250,000 survivors currently live in Israel, and a third of them are defined as poor, according to Social Affairs Ministry statistics. The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel estimates that 35 survivors die in Israel every day.
A recently-instated law initiated by the government promised to improve the mechanism of transferring money to survivors, but its implementation has so far been delayed.
One of the survivors' main difficulties stems from their poor access to information regarding their rights, and the lacking coordination between the government offices and aid organizations.
The law called for the establishment of an umbrella organization that would handle the assistance to survivors, but due to the delay in the transfer of funds, this plan remained on paper.
It appears that some of the survivors who are entitled to the new stipends stipulated in the law did not get them after they failed to complete the paperwork required by the government.
Aid groups claimed that the forms sent to the elderly survivors, most of whom are over 80, proved difficult to fill out and were therefore not submitted on time.
Budget grows – as do survivors' needs
Although the government did increase the budget allotted for services to survivors (the budget will stand at NIS 100 million, or $29 million, in 2008 and reach NIS 200 million, or $58 million in 2009), the awareness of survivors to their rights has also grown since the struggle was launched.
As a result, the number of applicants for financial assistance rose to an all-time high in the past year.
The aid organizations also reported an ever-growing increase in the number of survivors in need of their services. The Meir Panim relief center said it regularly supports some 10,000 survivors. Meanwhile, the Latet organization has recently launched a special project in which hundreds of survivors receive financial aid for buying medicines and food.
"I don't understand how the government fails to track down those needy survivors," Latet's Director-General Eran Weintraub said. "We started the project with 500 people, and 30 of them have already died. The government's decisions remain on paper, and in the meantime people are dying."
Referring to the issue, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Ynet: "The government has dealt extensively this year with treating the Holocaust survivors and with addressing the State of Israel's deep moral commitment towards them, a commitment which past Israeli governments seem to have neglected…. This government made a decision, is implementing it, and it deeply regrets the long years in which this duty has not been fulfilled."