Record Number of Holocaust Survivors in Need as State Fails to Allocate Funds, Report Says

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Volunteers pack food packages for Holocaust survivors in need, Israel, 2019.
Volunteers pack food packages for Holocaust survivors in need, Israel, 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The number of Holocaust survivors in need of welfare in Israel has soared to 70 percent of the population group, a report by the state comptroller says, blaming the increase on the failure of different government offices to use earmarked funds.

The report, issued on Monday, follows up on deficiencies reported in 2017, when 67 percent of survivors, or 51,000 people, were receiving aid. From January to March, the comptroller examined the operations of the Treasury, and especially its Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority unit, and other ministerial bodies handling survivors’ welfare, to see how they were attempting to address its concerns.

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“The treasury and authority have not yet found a solution to improve [the survivors’] economic situation,” Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said. “The follow up showed the failures had not been corrected and the handling of the situation had actually worsened.”

The comptroller found that in 2018-2019, the Welfare Ministry had used only 30 percent of a budget of 30 million shekels allocated to help survivors on welfare. “Due to the partial allocation of the budget... survivors have been unable to access many services that could improve their lives,” the report said, “including answers to special needs... and plans to help those stuck at home that could ease their sense of loneliness to some degree.”

The 2017 report showed the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority, which was created in 2018, had not conducted any survey of their situation so as to figure out who needed help and how much help was required. The follow-up showed that money was budgeted for that survey, but that it was never completed. Data was gathered for just 22 percent of survivors. No survey was ever conducted to find out how many survivors were immobile, and the authorities were not doing anything about making survivors’ housing more accessible for the disabled. It found that 100 of those disabled by the war had not received supplemental welfare stipends.

The comptroller said a program for emergency distress buttons placed in the homes of 9,000 survivors was at risk due to a lack of funds. The report also found a government panel in charge of the issue was not meeting on a regular basis, and there was uncertainty regarding its future operations.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman at a conference in Jerusalem, February 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

“Many Holocaust survivors had a role in the establishment of the country. Some of them were economic and political leaders,” Englman wrote. “Generations of Israeli governments did a great deal to help the Holocaust survivors living in Israel and to make it easier for them, and continue to do so. But despite their welcome activities, some of the survivors’ needs have not found a worthy response. Time is running out, the number of survivors is declining and there is a need to attach greater importance to the issue on the part of relevant authorities, and for them to examine the failures cited in the report and take steps to rectify them.”

“The generation of witnesses who experienced the Holocaust deserves to live out their lives with honor and to receive the recognition they deserve,” he added.

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