Likud Minister Haim Katz bemoans situation in which some 20,000 survivors in Israel don’t exercise their full rights and announces new plan to improve their lives.
Since the State of Israel’s establishment in 1948, some NIS 400 million earmarked for Holocuast survivors never made it to the survivors, Welfare Minister Haim Katz said at a press conference on Thursday.
According to the Welfare Ministry, there are 20,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel who haven’t exercised their full rights, losing out on over NIS 100 million in benefits.
The Welfare Ministry received some of the data from the Authority for Holocaust Survivors’ Rights after a long legal battle against the Finance Ministry. In an interview with Ynet in January, Katz claimed that the Finance Ministry is jealously guarding the information it has about Holocaust survivors and would not disclose it to anyone else. Meaning, the welfare minister knows there are roughly 190,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, but he can’t evaluate their economic situation.
“This lack of information is one of the factors leading to this tragedy. It’s likely that at least 50 percent of survivors are under the poverty line,” the minister said.
The Welfare Ministry recently obtained the data and set out to formulate a new plan that, among other things, will help survivors exercise their full rights.
According to the data, there are currently 194,468 Holocaust survivors, with 65,134 of them receiving long term care benefits from the National Insurance Institute.
According to the Welfare Ministry’s plan, 4,193 of the survivors who are 90 or over and have yet to receive any long term care benefits will automatically be eligible for these benefits; 3,281 survivors, who so far haven’t received additional care hours from the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel – even though they are eligible for it – will receive an additional nine hours of care.
In addition, 5,963 Holocaust survivors who so far received medium level nursing care will automatically be switched high level nursing assistance, which comes to an additional NIS 438 a month in benefits. Furthermore, 14,063 survivors, who so far haven’t received benefits from the Israel Electric Corporation, will receive a benefit of NIS 112 a month.
“I’m the son of Auschwitz survivors. In 1953, my father founded the Organization for the Victims of Nazi Persecution, and worked to help the survivors to exercise their rights. He did this without remuneration till his final day,” Katz said.
“Immediately after I entered the Welfare Ministry, I sought information about the situation of Holocaust survivors in Israel. I was amazed to learn that the Welfare Ministry did not even have an ounce of information on the topic. Unfortunately, the Authority for Holocaust Survivors’ Rights refused to share the information with the Welfare Ministry and the National Insurance Institute, making the ridiculous claim that it is because of the right to privacy,” he said, noting it took him eight months to receive access to the information – even though he is the welfare minister.
Katz harshly attacked the Authority for Holocaust Survivors’ Rights, and called for its closure. “I expect an investigation that will lead to the closure of the Authority for Holocaust Survivors’ Rights, following which the issue will be handled by the National Insurance Institute and the Welfare Ministry,” Katz said.
The Authority for Holocaust Survivors’ Rights, which is part of the Finance Ministry, said in response, “The Authority for Holocaust Survivors’ Rights provides data to any public body that seeks to aid survivors. Any claim to the contrary is simply not true. The authority provides information to different organizations, including the National Insurance Institute, the HMOs and others, on a regular basis.”