Ami (a pseudonym), 46, is classified as 100% disabled and suffers from cancer that has returned several times since 2009. His body is scarred from his many surgeries, and he suffers from depression. In recent years, his only income is a disability pension of around NIS 3,500 per month - but even that is taken away from him.
NIS 900 of his allowance is transferred directly to his ex-wife's account as a dependent. In addition, the court ordered Ami to pay NIS 1,750 a month in child support. Since he is unable to pay, he accumulates debt to the National Insurance Institute.
Ami's ex-wife has declared that she earns NIS 5,200 per month as an accountant.
Disability pensions are considered to be untouchable emergency assistance, even if the disabled has debts. There is only one exception to this rule - alimony payments. And it happens often, that disabled divorced men with no income except the meager disability pension find it, too, seized for child support. This is true even when the mother has her own income, and despite the fact that the mother and children can receive assistance directly through National Insurance.
Bathing with a garden hose
Ami was evicted in October from the housing unit where he lived in the center of the country after he could not pay the rent. The landlord allows him, for now, to pass the days and nights in the compound where the housing unit is located - but he is forced to sleep outside in the cold. He bathes with the garden hose, and eats fruit off of the trees.
Ami's case was decided by Judge Iris Essl of the Tel Aviv Family Court. Perhaps Ami could have gotten better results, but the lawyer he received through the state legal aid treated him degradingly and did a poor job of representim him. He was told by the Legal Aid bureau that the attorney in fact made serious mistakes in the case, and that he will get another lawyer in his place. It is thought that often lawyers tend to sell short the men they represent in divorce proceedings, believing that the result is a foregone conclusion and there is therefore no real chance to achieve good results for their clients.
In the days since we interviewed him, Ami's situation has improved. After receiving help from Chagai Nadav, founder of the Beit Abba (Homes for Fathers) organization, Ami found temporary housing for the coming month. However, he lives in dire straits. "I am on the skids," says Ami. "G-d help me. I'm thinking of putting up a collection, but I don't know how to do it".