Text size
related tags

Thousands of volunteers, non-profit organizations and companies have opened up their hearts, purses and homes to residents of the south of the country over the past two weeks.

All of them were told that, contrary to the vacuum left by the government in the north during the Second Lebanon War, this time the government and local authorities were the ones providing for the basic needs of the population and that any other assistance was in coordination with the authorities.

And indeed, that is how things are being done, more or less. At a meeting attended by numerous participants last week in the office of Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, who is in charge of the National Emergency Authority and the handling of civilian matters on the home front, representatives of several large organizations reported on the needs they had identified in the field.

Keynan Rabinu of the Ruach Tova non-profit organization, for example, said they were matching their volunteers with local authorities in the south so they could assist people in their homes or in the bomb shelters.

But, he added, there were more volunteers than were needed and the centers of the various volunteer organizations were flooded by people who want to help.

The director of the Latet non-profit association, Eran Weintraub, reported that his organization, which supplies food to the needy, had identified very few needy people in the south, although there was a need to provide meals for some residents of the south who had found guest accommodations in the north of the country.

Vilnai said there were four areas on which the efforts of the authority and the organizations should focus - taking children from the south for breaks in areas outside the danger zone, helping people with disabilities, making shelters in private homes functional, and distributing computers to children so they can study from home.

That is why some of the meeting participants were surprised to hear the Pitchon Lev non-profit organization announce yesterday that many needs in the south were not being met.

"The organization's vans carrying food and staffed by dozens of volunteers yesterday went to Sderot," the announcement read. "Dozens of excited residents crowded round the devoted volunteers with the baskets of food. When they toured the shelters, the volunteers saw real distress and a lack of basic food items."

The volunteers and the deputy mayor, Michael Amsalem, distributed food, candies and diapers.

"Because of the very great distress and the large numbers of requests from welfare officials, non-profit groups, charitable organizations and soup kitchens," the statement went on, "the director of the organization, Nissim Zioni, has decided to send additional emergency assistance to the south this week."

Fencing out Be'er Sheva bus station?

More than three years ago, the Keren Yedidut foundation donated more than NIS 3 million for the protective reinforcement of Be'er Sheva's central bus station with a perimeter fence.

The donation was made at the behest of the Public Security Ministry, which felt that the site was open to terrorist attacks.

Even before that, in 2001 and 2002, when there were numerous terrorist attacks, the foundation had donated close to NIS 5 million, also at the request of the ministry, to make buses more secure.

Responsibility for the project was placed on the Be'er Sheva municipality, which published a tender and chose a contractor. But the vendors at the station came out against the protective fence because they feared it would negatively affect their businesses.

Egged, which owns the station, also had reservations because it did not want to have to pay additional security guards who would be required to man the gates in the fence. And finally, Be'er Sheva's mayor at the time, Yaakov Turner, was opposed because he wanted a commitment from Egged that the bus company would pay for the protection.

Last month, the foundation announced that in light of all the delays, it was canceling its donation.

The deputy director of the public security ministry, Eliezer Rosenbaum, hopes that it will nevertheless be possible to carry out the project under the city's new mayor, Rubik Danilovich. He also believes that the foundation will be willing to reinstate its donation.

One can only be comforted by the thought that the fence was supposed to provide protection against suicide bombers and shootings, and not against Grad rockets.

Hurt by foreign placement reform

In recent months, dozens of elderly or disabled people have received letters from manpower agencies inviting them to sign up with them so they can continue to employ the foreign workers who take care of them.

When they register, they have to pay NIS 840, or NIS 70 per month.

The aim of the payment is to pay for a visit by a representative of the agency in the client's home once every three months, as the state requires.

"Which authority requires a frail-care patient to let into his home a worker from a private company despite the fact that he has not asked for his services?" asked the daughter of one patient, just one of many who has turned to Haaretz about this issue in the past few months.

Registering with manpower agencies is part of the reform the state is carrying out in the means of employing foreign workers in the nursing field.

Its aim, among other things, is to ensure that the workers are properly trained and to make supervision of them, and of the treatment they get from their employers, more effective.

As part of the reform, the elderly are also required to pay NIS 2,000 for their worker's placement with them. That payment is required despite the fact that many of them already paid for placement in the past to other manpower agencies before the reform was implemented.

Most of the elderly do not complain since they are worried the worker will be taken away from them. But in cases where they have complained to the Interior Ministry, they got their placement money back.

Many elderly and disabled people exist on meager old-age and disability pensions. The question is - what is the point of taking from them money that they received from the state and giving it to private agencies?