50,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel living in poverty


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

1 out of every 5 survivors was forced to choose between food and medication during the past two years, survey finds.


Yad vashem ceremony Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post

Of the 193,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel today, some 50,000 live in poverty, according to a report released Wednesday by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.

The report consisted of several elements, including updated statistics gathered by the Foundation as well as two surveys– one among 400 Holocaust survivors and the second among 500 people from the general public.

Of the Holocaust survivors surveyed, 45% indicated they feel “alone” and one out of every five survivors was forced to choose between food and other necessities during the past two years due to financial problems.

Chaya Kujikaro, a 76-year-old Holocaust survivor from Romania could not hold back tears as she described her living situation at the press conference announcing the report.  Kujikaro and her husband made aliya after 1953, and as such she is not entitled to the same rights as Holocaust survivors by the State of Israel.

“I want to ask the government, why if you made aliya after 1953 are you not considered a Holocaust survivor?” she asked.

Kujikaro lives off of a National Insurance Institute pension with her 90-year-old husband who suffers from heart problems and is confined to a wheel chair. They are forced to spend thousands of shekels every month on medications and medical treatments and their apartment is too small for the wheel chair to fit into the bathroom and shower.

“It is very difficult for us and we don't see any exit from this [situation], sometimes we just want to end our lives, but this is not how we want to [die],” she said.

Kujikaro is not alone, according to the survey 60% of Holocaust survivors are worried about their financial situation; with 55% of survivors responding that they are unhappy with the way the government treats them.  Furthermore, 61% said they did not feel any difference in the past year with regard to government assistance and treatment.

“If the state was a bit more considerate, could help us a little bit, how much longer will we live?” she asked.

The findings also indicated that 43% of Holocaust survivors fear that the Holocaust will happen again and one out of three survivors worries that the younger generations will not remember the Holocaust.

The survey was conducted by telephone in the second half of March among 400 Holocaust survivors living in Israel and reflects a +/- 4.9% margin of error.

In comparison, the public survey findings indicated that a majority of the general population, 84%, believe the treatment of Holocaust survivors was “not good.”

Of the respondents, 52% believe that a majority of Holocaust survivors live in poverty and only 10% said they believe the situation of Holocaust survivors was “good or adequate.” 

In addition, 56% of the general public said they did not believe there was any change made by the government this past year with regards to treating and assisting Holocaust survivors.

The findings also revealed that only 39% of people surveyed said they know a Holocaust survivor.  Despite this, 73% of the respondents believe that the public will remember the Holocaust even after the death of the survivors.

The public survey was conducted March 23 and 24 by telephone and questioned some 500 Jewish adults aged 18 and up; the survey reflects a +/- 4.5% margin of error.

According to the report, the average age of the Holocaust survivor in Israel today is 85-years-old and some two thirds are women. Each year an estimated 13,000 survivors pass away.

According to the report, during the past year some 70,000 Holocaust survivors requested assistance from the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.

Of the survivors seeking assistance from the foundation, 65% are above the age of 80, and 45% are above the age of 86.  Furthermore, 86% live on a monthly income of less that NIS 5,000 and 66% live on a monthly income of up to NIS 3,000.

Earlier this month Finance Minister Yair Lapid announced aNIS one billion national plan to assist Holocaust survivors.

The intended budget will be added to the NIS 835 million already allotted by the ministry for the next five years to assist Holocaust survivors.