By Ruth Sinai

It’s difficult to find an elderly Israeli who has not known suffering. Some fled for their lives from Iraq or Iran, some were beset by Arab rioters and malaria in Mandatory Palestine. Others saw their relatives die of dehydration on the way from Ethiopia. Tens of thousands were subject to hunger and disease under Stalin’s tyranny, and tens of thousands underwent indescribable suffering in Hitler’s death camps and ghettos.

The Holocaust was a unique atrocity in the history of humankind, and the experiences it entailed resemble no other. It is surprising, then, that the government wants to create a hierarchy of suffering. Those who lived through the horrors of the ghettos and the camps are now defined as “Holocaust survivors,” and those who survived the furnaces by fleeing from Poland to the former Soviet Union – even if they lost their entire families, went hungry, became sick, and were left with scars that cannot heal – are defined as “Holocaust refugees.”