'Hatred and Denial of Jews Has Become Hatred and Denial of Jewish State'

The prime minister spoke ahead of Israel's Holocaust Memorial Day; Holocaust victims group releases survey saying 208,000 survivors live in Israel today, but are passing away at a rate of around 35 per day.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned before Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday that "hatred of the Jews and the denial of their existence have turned into hatred of the Jewish state."

"The important question that must be asked today is: Have we learned the lessons of the Holocaust in the world? And to our great regret, the answer is no," Netanyahu said.

Israel's Holocaust Memorial Day begins at sundown on Sunday. A siren will be sounded throughout the country on Monday morning in honor of the six million Jews who were murdered in World War II.

Some 208,000 Holocaust survivors remain in Israel today, the Tel Aviv-based Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel said ahead of the memorial. They also reported that half of the survivors are older than 80, and every day about 35 of them pass away.

A Holocaust survivor protesting in Jerusalem in 2007. Credit: Tess Scheflan

Some 74,000 of survivors living in Israel were once held in camps or confined to ghettos, while the remaining 134,000 are Holocaust refugees who survived the war by fleeing the Nazi horrors or going into hiding.

While in the early years after Israel's foundation, in 1948, Holocaust survivors made up about half the country's Jewish population, they today form under 4 per cent.

Their number is dwindling fast - about nearly 13,000 die each year, said the Holocaust survivors foundation.

That means that in some 16 years no one will be left in Israel to tell the story of the Holocaust first hand.

The foundation commissioned a study by an Israeli-Jewish American social research center, the Meyers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, which found that survivors sometimes live in difficult conditions.

Some 40 percent of the survivors reported loneliness. Around 20 percent said they did not have enough heating in the winter. About 5 percent said they did not have enough food, while another 25 percent said they had enough to meet their daily needs, but not the kind they would like. Many also suffer from age-related health problems.

Foundation chairman Elazar Stern said the results of the study showed that the need for assistance among aging Holocaust survivors would only grow in the coming years.

"The young generation won't forgive us if we don't care for the older generation with the respect that it deserves," he said.



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