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Old 04-26-2006, 04:27 PM
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Default Many Israeli Holocaust survivors live in poverty

Many Israeli Holocaust survivors live in poverty

By Jonathan Saul
Reuters, Monday, April 24, 2006; 11:36 AM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors in Israel are living in poverty because they are not getting enough help from the Jewish state, social welfare groups said on Monday.

The Finance Ministry said the government allocates 1.5 billion shekels ($330 million) a year to Holocaust survivors, giving them payments "far higher" than the social security allotments received by other elderly Israelis.

But, providing figures on the eve of Israel's annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Holocaust Survivors' Welfare Fund said around 80,000 of the 280,000 survivors in the country lived below the poverty line.

"Israel has always been busy remembering the dead but forgetting the living," said Zeev Feiner, a spokesman for the welfare fund.

Feiner said many survivors had to live on the equivalent of a few hundred dollars a month and lacked funds for basic items such as dentures and medicine, with around 46,000 considered dependents on the state.

Nathan Durst, co-founder of Amcha, an Israeli group which provides assistance and counseling to Holocaust survivors, added: "They do not have the strength to demonstrate. If they are crying, they are crying without tears."

Israel was founded partly as a haven for survivors of the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews during World War Two.

Survivor groups said many of the survivors who came to Israel after the 1948 Middle East War received compensation from Germany. Others received considerably smaller stipends from Israel.


But Durst said many of the survivors now living below the poverty line had migrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.

Many, he said, were not eligible for any compensation from abroad or from Israel because of technicalities, increasing the hardships they faced.

Holocaust survivors make up around 40 percent of Israelis above the age of 60.

Feiner said the Finance Ministry had pledged to increase the amount it provided to the Holocaust Survivors' Welfare Fund's budget to a total of 14 million shekels, but the sum was still insufficient.

He said due to a lack of funds his organization, founded by Holocaust survivors, had to turn away 20,000 claims for aid by needy survivors since the group's founding in 2005.

"They have earned the right to get the minimum, to live a normal life and end their lives in an honorable way," he said.

($1=4.545 shekels)

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