Holocaust survivors insulted by offer
Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent | August 01, 2007

ISRAELI Holocaust survivors are up in arms about a new government pension that will add a mere 83 shekels ($22) to the monthly incomes of veterans aged above 70.

The pension scheme, announced this week, supplements an existing aged pension and national insurance program, but survivors’ advocacy groups say the new stipend disgraces the legacy of the 120,000 survivors who could receive it.
“It is saddening and insulting to discover that Israel prefers a biological solution for the plight of the Holocaust survivors,” Noah Flug, who heads an umbrella organisation of survivors’ advocacy groups, told Haaretz newspaper.

However Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who announced the scheme this week, said it would go part of the way towards redressing ambivalence in Israeli society towards the survivors of the Nazi death camps and eastern European ghettos.

“We are correcting a 60-year-old blight,” Mr Olmert said of the decision.

“Holocaust survivors living in Israel are entitled to live respectably, without reaching a situation in which it is beyond their means to enjoy a hot meal.

“The neglect of successive governments will not continue.

“It is important to see to it that Holocaust survivors receive these supplements and are able to live honourably.”

Since the state of Israel was formed, the Holocaust survivors have often experienced hardship, and in some cases prejudice. Advocacy groups have repeatedly claimed that many live well below the poverty line and have received substandard health and mental health treatment from Israeli governments.

The monthly payment will be 83 Israeli shekels, increasing to 100 shekels a month within three years.

Aid groups estimate that close to one third of the 260,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel live in poverty. Most of those who immigrated after 1953 receive nothing more than the pension, although many may be entitled to the new stipend. A small number also receive a pension from the German Government.

Nearly 20 per cent of the survivors in Israel are older than 86 and 70 per cent are older than 76, according to government statistics.

The Israeli Finance Ministry says it pays $US326 million ($380 million) to Holocaust survivors each year.