Eleven thousand Holocaust survivors who have not received benefits for the past 10 months will receive a one-time payment this month.
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Arranged by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism,) the payment will relieve the distress of survivors caught up in a legal dispute, which neither the World Zionist Organization (WZO) nor the Finance Ministry seems able or willing to resolve.
“I can now afford fewer medications for me and my wife, even though this harms our health,” 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Eliezer Tzinman told Haaretz. “I’ve stopped eating fruit and buy less food. We eat only bread since that’s all I can afford. If there is really cheap fruit on Fridays we get some. We don’t turn use heat since we can’t afford the electricity.”
Tzinman, who came to Israel from Ukraine, lives with his wife on 5,000 shekels ($1,670) a month. Since June, when his benefits stopped, they’ve had to make do with 4,000 shekels a month.
“The benefit was the mainstay of our income,” he said. “I can’t use public transportation due to my health and now I can’t get to my doctor since I can’t afford a taxi. We only want our benefits back.”
The dispute is between the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets and a holding company called Otsar Hityashvuth Hayehudim, which is partly owned by the WZO. The former company provides 2,700 shekels to needy survivors every three months. However, it ran into solvency problems in June and the only funds currently available are the holding company’s Bank Leumi shares.
Though both entities have committed themselves to reaching a legal settlement promptly, funds have not been transferred to the survivors. Not even several Knesset committee sessions on the issue have succeeded in breaking the deadlock. Only through Gafni’s intervention was a one-time payment arranged before Passover.
The Treasury was going to guarantee a loan for the company for restitution to enable it to continue paying the benefits, but nothing has come of it as yet.
Another option was that funds be transferred from the Jewish National Fund until the dispute is settled. Its director agreed to do so after an appeal by MK Meirav Michaeli (Zionist Camp) but the WZO has yet to give its approval.
Gafni has appealed to the attorney general to assist in finding a solution to the problem. “The WZO should allow the JNF to transfer these funds or come to an arrangement with the company for restitution,” he told Haaretz.
“We can’t continue with this foot-dragging. Every day there are fewer survivors. This is the weakest segment of society and the hardest hit among survivors, who have enough problems already.”