Israel to increase stipend to Holocaust survivors
3 July 2007, Jerusalem (dpa) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has agreed to negotiate an increase in the monthly government stipends he has pledged to tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors living in Israel starting next year, a government statement faxed to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Friday said.
3 July 2007
Jerusalem (dpa) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has agreed to negotiate an increase in the monthly government stipends he has pledged to tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors living in Israel starting next year, a government statement faxed to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Friday said.
The decision came after government officials met with members of the Centre for Holocaust Survivors Organizations in Israel late Thursday, following wide and angry protests by the survivors organizations against a government decision of earlier this week.
The government had decided Monday to grant each Holocaust survivor an allowance of 83 Israeli shekels a month in 2008, less than 20 dollars.
Under the decision, the allowance would have gradually increased to up to 520 shekels by 2011.
But Holocaust survivors had greeted the decision with outrage, calling the amount marginal, and have been protesting against it outside Olmert's office in Jerusalem.
Olmert had initially hailed his decision to pay out allowances to Holocaust survivors, unprecedented in Israel's history, as a "correction of a 60-year-old blight."
"Holocaust survivors living in Israel are entitled to live respectably without reaching a situation in which it is beyond their means to enjoy a hot meal. The neglect of successive governments will not continue," he said Monday.
But Noah Flug, the chairman of the Centre for Holocaust Survivors, said it was too little, too late. "Eighty-three shekels won't solve the problem," he said, charging Holocaust survivors in Europe were enjoying better living conditions that those in the Jewish state.
By the time the allowance would have increased to several hundred in 2011, "a third of the Holocaust survivors won't be alive," he told Israel Radio shortly after the decision was announced.
Some 120,000 Holocaust survivors aged 70 and older living in Israel would have been eligible for the allowance.
Olmert earlier this year established a steering committee to look into the well-being and living conditions of Holocaust survivors, amid growing critical reports in the Israeli media that tens of thousands of them had fallen under the poverty line.
Many of those living in poverty are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who arrived in the past 15 years or so, but on their arrival were too old to work and build a decent pension, Flug told dpa Friday.
The former Soviet immigrants are also not eligible for funding from the German government, which compensates Jews who survived the war in ghettos, concentration camps or in hiding in Germany and Nazi-occupied countries, but not those who escaped the Nazis to the former Soviet Union, he explained.
Flug said his Holocaust survivors centre was scheduled to hold talks with Olmert next week, adding a mass protest initially scheduled for Sunday had for the time being been postponed.
Previous Israeli governments had never paid out allowances to Holocaust survivors because they did not regard themselves as responsible for compensating them. But Flug argued the government of Israel nevertheless had a "moral obligation" to ensure their well-being.
"The feeling is not good, but I hope that in the end they will understand and the issue will be solved," he said.
The international ministerial committee set up by Olmert had initially proposed granting some 1,040 shekels a month to each Holocaust survivor.
Subject: German news