Monday, January 20, 2020

(Times of Israel)—Holocaust survivors on Monday blasted a government plan to transfer all of their financial assistance packages to the auspices of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services.

At a session of the Knesset State Control Committee, Holocaust survivor Avraham Berkowitz raged at Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid), charging that “You want to move us to the most pathetic and deprived office” in the government, according to Ynet (Yediot Acharanot’s website).

Berkowitz then turned to Finance Minister Yair Lapid and begged him to block the move, claiming that the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services does not allocate anything to survivors. “Survivors are dying exponentially,” Berkowitz said.

Lapid, for his part, acknowledged that Israel must do more for survivors. Funding for those who lived through the Holocaust and are now in Israel “is not a gift. It is what they deserve,” the Yesh Atid leader said.

“These are the people that established our country,” said Lapid. “It is thanks to them that we are here… our job is simply to give them [their money] in the proper way, and we are not doing a good enough job.”

Nevertheless, Lapid and Cohen announced that the plan to move the treatment of Holocaust survivors to the Welfare and Social Services Ministry would proceed as planned. According to Lapid, the “the move is designed to bring all of the bodies dealing with Holocaust survivors together under one roof.”

Lapid further pledged that absolutely nothing would change in terms of the care each individual survivor receives — “not in terms of the clerk that deals with his file, not in the physical location [of the office], and not with the telephone and fax numbers. Our goal is to streamline and consolidate the institutional caregivers.”

The Finance and Welfare ministries also earmarked an additional NIS 24 million ($6.7 million) in two areas. First, all Holocaust survivors eligible to receive an NIS 350 ($98) tax refund on electrical appliances will be able to do so even without presenting sales receipts.

Second, disability payments for Holocaust survivors will always be rounded off to the higher point, even when the percentage is below half a percentage point. For example, a survivor who is slated to receive 39.1% disability funds will receive 40% rather than 39%.

In April, members of the Knesset’s Health and Welfare Committee were shocked into silence when an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor who lost patience with the proceedings blasted the government for wasting time on endless debates, while abandoning survivors to die in poverty.

“What you’re doing to the survivors is a crime and a disgrace. [Former prime minister David] Ben-Gurion made a pact, promising we would receive money for the rest of our lives,” said Tivon resident Dora Roth, who immigrated to Israel in 1952 after losing her family and enduring WWII Europe as a child.

“What have you done with the money?” demanded Roth, pointing her finger at the attending politicians. “Seeing a Holocaust survivor who can’t afford to heat his home in the winter and can’t afford to buy food or medicine is your disgrace. I don’t care about your committees. They mean nothing to us. I came all the way here to ask you one thing: Let us die in dignity.”

Ron Friedman contributed to this report.

By Asher Zeiger