Welfare and Social Services Minister Chaim Katz (Likud) on Thursday morning revealed that over 20,000 Holocaust survivors did not have their rights implemented, meaning they lost out on over 100 millions shekels (over $26.4 million) worth of welfare services.
At a press conference that he organized, Katz called for an immediate plan of action to have the rights of the survivors realized. There are currently 194,468 Holocaust survivors living in Israel according to the Welfare Ministry.
The Welfare Ministry cross-checked the existing figures on National Insurance so as to get an accurate picture of the reality Holocaust survivors currently are dealing with.
From the figures it was found that 2,725 survivors are living in recognized institutions. A full 4,193 survivors aged 90 and older were found to not be receiving any nursing stipends despite being eligible. The Welfare Ministry intends to individually contact each one to confirm their eligibility and ensure they receive their rights.
In addition, 3,281 survivors who were found to have not yet received additional nursing hours from the Holocaust Survivors Welfare Fund even though they are eligible to receive them are to get an additional 9 hours of nursing.
A full 5,963 survivors will automatically be raised from a medium level of nursing care to a high level, an increase costing an additional 438 shekels a month.
Meanwhile 14,063 Holocaust survivors who have not received benefits from the Israel Electric Corporation despite being eligible for them will receive the benefits, which are worth up to 112 shekels a month.
"We all failed"
"The figures clearly show how we all failed," said Katz at the press conference. "How the bureaucracy, the impermeability of the clerks and the multitude of (official) bodies dealing with the matter brought about a situation in which there are survivors who are hungry for bread, suffering from cold and a lack of attention."
"We will do all that is possible in order to prevent this awful suffering and we will enable them to live in dignity. First we will try to conduct a process in which those who need help will receive more than those who don't need it."
Katz said that as soon as he took command of the Welfare Ministry he sought to learn what was the status of Holocaust survivors living in Israel.
"I was shocked to discover that the Welfare Ministry and the social services didn't have a scrap on information on the matter. Unfortunately the information about Holocaust survivors living in Israel was kept in secret," he added, explaining that the authority for Holocaust survivor's rights had sole control over the information.
"The clerks who were tasked with the matter were unwilling to provide the figures to the Welfare Ministry or National Insurance, on a ridiculous claim of privacy."
"Following a struggle that I waged and after the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit got involved, 20 days ago the clerks at the authority for Holocaust survivors were so kind as to give us the teudat zehut (identity card – ed.) numbers for the survivors that they had."