The Knesset Caucus for Holocaust Survivors convened a special hearing on Monday afternoon, in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day. Caucus chair Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid) was in attendance, as well as several MKs and Holocaust survivors.
The goal: to discuss important issues regarding the Israeli government's services for survivors - and to give Holocaust survivors a platform and a voice.
The hearing first welcomed the decision by the Israeli government's decision Sunday to approve Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid)'s plan to allocate an additional one billion shekel ($287,894,000) per year for survivors. The plan, which raises the standard of living for survivors and provides essential services for free or for heavily subsidized rates, will also see special support centers built for survivors to meet their spiritual and psychological needs. The Knesset Caucus was heavily involved in advancing Lapid's bill.
During the meeting, the Caucus vowed to continue working closely with other Knesset committees and ministries to ensure not only that survivors can live with dignity, but that Holocaust education in Israel advances and thrives. Representatives stressed that the goal is make sure that not a single survivor living in Israel is left without the ability to live life to the fullest.
Both survivors and attending MKs said the past year has been crucial for improving Holocaust survivors' lives.
"Today, like every day, I salute the survivors of the Holocaust," Kariv stated. "Over the past year we have a change of national priorities for our survivors. I look at the process we went through last year - a year of listening, working together, teaching and empowering."
"To me, all survivors are heroes," she continued. "The State was established through their merit. Our main task now is addressing the solitude with which survivors in the course of their daily lives."
Caucus co-chairman MK Dov Henin (Hadash) noted that despite great gains in the state's services to survivors, there is always room for improvement.
"I have a lot of respect for Holocaust survivors, but sometimes feel ashamed about the state's attitude towards them," he stated. "The Knesset Caucus still has much to do, but this year we also saw progress, which we welcome."
"I am pleased that the government has accepted our proposal regarding the rights of survivors who immigrated after 1953 and increasing eligibility for benefits," he continued. "[But] there are pressing challenges still ahead: the issue of Holocaust refugees, easing the bureaucratic burden on survivors [. . .] and creating a uniform list of Holocaust survivors and one address for them to get information and answers [about their rights]."
Caucus co-chairman MK Elazar Stern (HaTnua) agreed, adding that the focus is now on Holocaust education.
"We first decided to put the issue of survivors' welfare at the top of our agenda," Stern explained. He welcomed the decision to approve the financial aid package earlier this week. "Nevertheless, it is important to remember that The State of Israel was built thanks to the survivors and therefore we need to preserve the memory and legacy of the Holocaust."
Education Minister Shai Piron called the missive to continue Holocaust education a societal duty.
"Holocaust Memorial Day is a day where we all stand in front of a mirror and examine our ability to translate our dream for a new state, to remember and never forget - into an opportunity," Piron said. "It's the duty of society to transmit the story of the Holocaust to future generations. The message must pass from generation to generation, so that in a hundred years there will not be young people in Israel who learn about the Holocaust the same way they study the French Revolution."
"I feel proud to stand today before you, the Holocaust survivors, and assure you that your story will be told with the same intensity and out of the same obligation to make the world a better place."