The additional budget, allotted by the government following a state commission of inquiry report, complied by former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, were slated to be distributed through the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, but the financial crisis enveloping Israel now threatens it.
Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, now in his second term in office, tried to ease these concerns Monday, saying that the welfare of Holocaust survivors was his office's top priority and the "we will keep doing everything we can to see that Holocaust survivors' needs are met."
Nevertheless, the concerns are not without merit, as Ynet learned that the number of applicants seeking the foundation's services – namely, assistance in obtaining medical treatments and drugs and nursing services – has soared over the past year, noting a 46% rise.
According to the foundation, the financial crisis has left many families unable to shoulder the financial burden of caring for elderly Holocaust survivors on their own, making the promised government funds more essential than ever.
"All we are asking is that the budget meant to ensure these people are helped will not be compromised," said Guy Affari, deputy-director of the foundation. "This sector's (government) budget must not be affected by the recession."
Knesset lobby needed
Nahum Itskovitch, director-general of the Ministry of Social Affairs, told Ynet that the number of calls to the recently formed ministry's information center on Holocaust survivors' rights has numbered in thousands so far. "I hope we can reach every survivor," he said.
Itskovitch also authored a brief suggesting the State stop differentiating between "first circle" Holocaust survivors – those who were in Nazi death camps, and "second circle" survivors – who survived the concentration and labor camps and are officially defined as "Holocaust refugees."
"I recommended the government treat all these people in the same manner. These are elderly people who need government assistance. We can't, however, expect all of our recommendations to be accepted. The new government has to allow survivors to realize their rights. It is our moral duty to help them and I hope no one infringes on that," he said.
Another matter the new government will soon have to rule on in the official status of the Consortium of Holocaust Survivors' Organizations in Israel.
The previous government saw Pensioners Party Chairman Rafi Eitan present the Knesset with a bill calling to recognize the consortium, which acts as an umbrella organization for various survivors' rights and welfare groups, as the legal representative of the cause, thus ensuring the continuousness of its activities. The motion was about to be reviewed by the Knesset Committee on Legislation when general elections were called and the Knesset was dissolved.
The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel also expressed its concern that since none of the Knesset members who used to lobby for the survivors' welfare have been reelected, the lobby – whose main task was to ensure government decisions on the matter were implemented – has in fact ceased to exists.
Moreover, said the foundation, none of the newly elected MKs have approached them on the matter on their own accord. The foundation is currently trying to recruit MKs to the cause in hopes of resurrecting the lobby.