New figures come into light for October’s International Day of Older Persons at Knesset committees: Half of senior citizens living in poverty are new immigrants, 1/3 are Holocaust survivors. Will MKs stand behind promises and cancel cutbacks on stipends for the elderly?
Miri Chason

Almost half of those living in poverty in Israel are new immigrants, according to a study presented before the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs in honor of the International Day of Older Persons
Some 37 percent of seniors living in Israel are Holocaust survivors from Europe. Most of the survivors are over 65 years old. 17 percent of Holocaust survivors living in Israel came to the country in the large immigration wave of the 90’s from former Soviet Union. According to the research conducted by Jenny Brodsky and Sergio DeLa Pargola, many of these immigrants are in a difficult financial situation and require social aide. In 2003, 177,000 Holocaust survivors were living below the poverty line.
The Knesset Committee for Immigration and Absorption announced that it would initiate a meeting with the prime minister and the minister of finance to solve the problem. Committee chairman MK Prof. Michael Nudelman (Kadima) said: “Half of the elderly citizens living below the poverty line are new immigrants, while this group constitutes only 22 percent of the population. Their general physical and mental health is worse than that of the general elderly population in Israel.
During the meeting MK Sofa Landver (Labor) stated that: “it is a disgrace that we remember elderly new immigrants only one day a year, and that the country doesn’t allow them to live with dignity.” So why is the number of impoverished elderly new immigrants so high? One reason is that most of the immigrants didn’t have a chance to accumulate a pension. Many of them came to Israel penniless and weren’t able to integrate into the workforce because of cultural differences, language barriers and professional criterion that differed from that in their home countries. Financial woes have impaired the ability of elderly new immigrants to provide basic needs like food, housing and healthcare – a fact which influences their physical and mental health. Some elderly citizens refrain from receiving expensive medical treatments such as dental procedures because of their economic situation.
In a joint meeting held by the Finance Committee and the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee the two committees called on the government to immediately cancel all the edicts regarding senior citizens: Stipends for the elderly and a change in the nursing benefit rate for the elderly. The committees called on the government to return to the practice of approximating the stipends to the average market salary and not the consumer price index and also to accelerate the legislation of a law which would make pensions obligatory for the entire populace. Finance Committee chairman, MK Yakov Litzman (UTJ) addressed the freezing of elderly stipends and told the many pensioner representatives who were present at the meeting: “If the pensioner representative in the Finance Committee votes against freezing the stipends it will be enough to ensure a majority in the committee against the government’s decision.”