A heated debate on State aid to Holocaust survivors was held Monday in the Knesset State Control Committee. The height of the debate was when members of the committee and Ministers were addressed by Holocaust survivors who came to the Knesset and it was focused on the decision to transfer the handling of survivors from the Finance Ministry to the Social Affairs Ministry.
This raised the wrath of Avraham Berkowitz, a Holocaust survivor, who erupted in shouts directed at Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, "You want to move us to the most miserable, neglected department."
Even as he was exchanging harsh words with the minister and MK Elazar Stern, Berkowitz turned to Finance Minister Yair Lapid and said, "Don’t allow this. You want to transfer the survivors to the department that is not allocated anything. We will get up on our feet and demonstrate."
Miriam Greiner, a Holocaust survivor born in Budapest, said, "For years we have been saying that Holocaust survivors should be under one roof, but we did not want to have the stigma of the Ministry of Social Affairs."
Chairman of the Center for Holocaust Survivor Organizations, Colette Avital, added, "There is fear that they will throw the baby out with the bathwater. Survivors fear they will become welfare cases."
But apparently, the government is determined to transfer the survivors to the Social Affairs Ministry. The State Control Committee, headed by MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), discussed findings of the State Comptroller’s report on the subject, (and findings of the Ombudsman’s report, which was published some two months ago).
Lapid attended the hearing and said, "We are sending the Survivors Rights Authority to the Ministry of Social Affairs, so that they will be under one roof… Everything will be concentrated on one phone. Our goal is to optimize the factors and the Social Affairs minister will head the umbrella organization which will handle it.”
In addition to Lapid and Cohen, the meeting was also attended by the State Comptroller retired Judge Joseph Shapira, retired Justice Dalia Dorner, representatives of ministries and Holocaust survivors. A representative of the Ombudsman’s office told the committee that over the years, it handled many hundreds of survivors. According to him, the rate of justified complaints last year reached 38%, compared to the average of general complaints standing at 28%. "This means that the survivors still need to overcome quite a few bureaucratic obstacles," said the representative.
Ofra Ross, the chair of the Survivors Rights Authority in the Finance Ministry said during the meeting, "We made major changes in 2010 in dealing with survivors. We entered tens of thousands of additional survivors under the care of the Authority, and treated diseases that had been previously untreated.”
Lapid mentioned a five-year plan to transfer NIS 500 million in aid to Holocaust survivors: "We have created a consolidated list of all the survivors, about 200,000 people. We are checking to ensure that everyone gets what is coming to them, it is not a gift, these people are the founders of the country.”
Dora Roth was another participant in the discussions. A Holocaust survivor who consistently attends the relevant discussions and protests strongly against the shoddy assistance, as she defines it, that she and other survivors receive.
At the discussions on Monday, Roth addressed Lapid, "I'm disabled at 65 percent because the Germans shot me, and because I suffered from tuberculosis and I have only one functioning lung. I'm not complaining about it, but National Insurance and the pension of my late husband were taken out of my 65 percent disability. And you are silent about that? You were born into the home of a Holocaust survivor.”
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