More than 20,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel are due 127 million shekels ($33.5 million), the Social Affairs Ministry said Thursday, adding that the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority had kept data from the ministry “on the ridiculous grounds” of protecting survivors’ privacy.
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Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz said his ministry would immediately launch a program to ensure that the survivors received the aid. Only last month did the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority give the ministry data on the number of survivors and the assistance they received.
“Unfortunately, the information on Holocaust survivors living in Israel was kept secret, guarded solely by the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority,” Katz said.
“The clerks assigned to this issue refused to share the data, either with the Social Affairs Ministry or with the National Insurance Institute, on the ridiculous grounds of protecting privacy. After the campaign I mounted and the intervention of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, the authority’s clerks deigned just 20 days ago to give us the survivors’ ID numbers.”
According to the records, there are 194,468 Holocaust survivors in Israel, of whom 65,134 receive home help benefits from the NII.
More than 4,190 Holocaust survivors age 90 and over have never received these benefits. According to the program, 5,963 survivors will automatically be moved from the middle to the highest level of assistance eligibility, at an estimated cost of 438 shekels per month per person.
The welfare authorities and the NII say they will interview all survivors to determine their eligibility. The 14,063 survivors who have never received benefits for home electricity use will now receive them.
Ministry officials say they were able to correlate the data with those in the NII records and provide a profile of Holocaust survivors’ situation in Israel.
“The numbers clearly reflect how we’ve all failed – how the bureaucracy, the indifference of officials, and the proliferation of agencies that deal with this issue have produced a situation where survivors go hungry and suffer from cold and neglect,” Katz said. “We will do everything possible to prevent this terrible suffering and allow them to live in dignity.”