Approved: One-Billion Shekel Aid Package for Holocaust Survivors
The government approved Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid)'s financial plan to assist Holocaust survivors in Israel on Sunday, to the tune of some one billion shekel ($287,894,000) per year, according to Walla! News.
The aid package, which is designed to support the 200,000 Holocaust survivors estimated to be living in Israel in 2014, will be in addition to the 835 million shekel ($240,391,490) the Finance Ministry has allocated for Holocaust survivors as part of a five-year support plan.
The plan calls for the allocation of 277 million shekels ($79,746,638) to survivors who made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel) after 1953.
Currently, survivors who made Aliyah after that date receive between 1,500 to 1,800 shekels per month ($431.84-518.21); under the new plan, the allowances could increase dramatically, from 1,825 shekel to 5,400 shekel ($525.41-1554.63) per month. The change is expected to help change the lives of over 18,000 Holocaust survivors for the better.
In addition, post-1953 immigrants who survived the Holocaust are slated to receive a 3,600 shekel (roughly $1,000) stipend each year, with an additional 4,000 shekel stipend every few years specifically for dental and eye care.
Holocaust survivors will also receive free prescriptions, instead of the 50% discount that has been allotted to them until now.
Holocaust survivors who suffer from especially dire financial straits - an estimated 9,000 people - will also receive a 2,000 shekel annual grant.
Holocaust Survivors and Poverty in Israel
Lapid announced the program two weeks ago, ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day. However, the announcement also follows disturbing statistics released about Holocaust survivors in Israel in general, showing that 50,000 survivors live under the poverty line.
According to the report, 60% of survivors are "troubled" by their economic situation; 66% of survivors are surviving off the meager income of NIS 3,000 a month ($859 dollars; less than the typical monthly rent price for a studio apartment in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv).
More than a third of Holocaust survivors have applied for financial help from the state.
Helping Holocaust Survivors Live with Dignity
Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) Chairman and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the plan later Sunday, and thanked Lapid and Pensioners Minister Uri Orbach (Jewish Home) for pushing the proposal forward.
"[Orbach and Lapid] spared no effort to build a framework [through which] to assist survivors and help them deal with everyday life," Bennett stated, "which is made of both difficult memories from the past and the reality of illness and poverty."
"We all know how important it is to listen to Holocaust survivors, hear their stories and memories, name our children [after the victims]," Bennett continued. "But not less important is our duty to take care of them and show the whole world how the State of Israel is committed to them dearly."
Bennett stressed that a measure of society is their dedication to caring for their elderly, their poor, and their weak.
"Today we all proved that our hearts are in the right place," he said. "Tomorrow, we will all continue to fight to make sure that Holocaust survivors never know another feeling of loss."