Holocaust survivors who made aliya to Israel after 1953 do not receive the same benefits as survivors who made aliya prior to this date.
A Channel 2 report aired Saturday night highlighted this discrepancy and the plight of three elderly survivors living below the poverty line, because they were only able to immigrate to Israel after 1953.
According to the report, in 1952 Israel and Germany signed an agreement for billions of shekels in compensation for Holocaust survivors. However, Israel decided that the compensation would only apply to survivors who made aliya prior to 1953, the year in which Germany began to pay.
This policy has led to inequality among survivors – and has left tens of thousands of survivors below the poverty line.
“When we talk about poverty among Holocaust survivors it is mainly discussing those who made aliya after 1953,” Aviva Silberman, founder and chairwoman of Aviv Lenitzolei Hashoah, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Holocaust survivors in Israel realize their rights, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
According to Silberman there are currently some 85,000 Holocaust survivors who made aliya after 1953. These survivors, many of whom are from the former Soviet Union, receive a yearly allotment of NIS 3,960.
This compared to the monthly compensation received by Holocaust survivors who made aliya prior to 1953, which ranges from some NIS 2,300 per month to just over NIS 10,000 per month.
“In the group of those who receive monthly compensation, not one is supposed to be considered poor, because everyone is supposed to receive income supplements above the poverty line,” Silberman said.
In 2014, the government promoted a NIS 1 billion “National Plan to Assist Holocaust Survivors,” initiated by then finance minister Yair Lapid.
The plan assisted some 18,500 survivors who made aliya after 1953 by equating their allowances to survivors who arrived in the country prior to this date, though this accounted for only a small fraction of the survivors.
The remaining survivors who made aliya after 1953 were to receive an annual allocation of NIS 3,600.
“Prior to 2014, there was no allotment for those who did not receive monthly compensation, so they did improve the conditions for those who were not receiving any benefits,” she said.
Silberman noted that there were exceptions and that additional groups of survivors, primarily from Romania, were recently recognized and granted monthly compensation on par with survivors who made aliya prior to 1953.
Additionally, she said that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also initiated the recognition of some 55,000 survivors from Middle Eastern countries and North Africa who were also granted a yearly stipend.
“The important thing now is to increase the [yearly] compensation for survivors and to recognize additional population groups who can receive monthly compensation,” Silberman said.
Meanwhile, the Channel 2 report showed the dismal conditions some survivors are living in.
“How long do I have to live? Not much longer,” Max Galberg, an 80-year-old survivor said in the report.
Galberg said that he was unable to leave the former Soviet Union and therefore was only able to make aliya in 1957.
“How could I have come? With communism I wasn’t allowed to leave,” he said. “Because I came in ‘57 I am entitled to nothing.”
He lives in public housing in a small studio apartment. His kitchen sits a few feet away from his bed and the income he receives from the National Insurance Institute is well below the poverty line. The yearly stipend is barely able to cover three months’ rent.
As such, he explained that he relies on assistance from organizations like the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which provide heaters, food baskets, and other basic supplies to survivors in need.
Still, Silberman said that there is hope. The government is slowly recognizing additional population groups and her organization helps survivors realize their rights and receive compensation that they may be entitled to.
“More than 60% of the survivors who come to us are unaware of their rights,” she said. “I call on everyone to come and consult with our organization because there are many rights in Israel and also in Germany that they may be entitled to and that they might not be aware of – and this is a free service.”
Read more at THE INEQUALITY AMONG HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS.