Bill to aid poor Holocaust survivors passes in committee

A bill aimed at improving the status of Holocaust survivors passed its second and third readings on Monday at a session of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs.

The bill was submitted by MK Yuri Shtern (Israel Beiteinu).

“This law brings justice to needy Holocaust survivors in Israel and will provide them with an assured income,” commented committee chairman, MK Professor Michael Nudelman (Kadima).

“Our aim now is to bring it to the Knesset plenum Tuesday for a closing vote,” said a spokeswoman for Shtern following the meeting. “We hope that very soon this will be a new law in the State of Israel.”

Shtern’s representative added that the new law would become a reality as soon as July 1, 2007, providing many victims of Nazi atrocities living in Israel with a range of benefits to improve their daily living conditions.

The benefits package outlined in the new law includes an additional 10 percent in rental assistance from the Housing Ministry as well as priority status for public housing; an annual allowance of 15 percent of the average salary to be received each August; and a total exemption from the annual television license fee.

The additional income and tax exemptions will allow many elderly Holocaust survivors to live the last years of their lives in dignity, said Shtern’s spokeswoman. She said that a survey by the JDC-Brookdale Institute into the living conditions of the country’s Holocaust survivors found that more than 2,000 people, most of them over the age of 85, would benefit from the new law.

A 2005 study by the Fund for the Welfare of Holocaust Survivors in Israel found that more than 40% of Israel’s estimated 260,000 survivors live below the poverty line.

While the government of Israel provides NIS20 million for Holocaust survivors and the Claims Conference (the conference on material claims against Germany) a further $35 m., some Holocaust survivors who arrived in Israel over the past 15 years from the former Soviet Union receive little or no social benefits