This is the third essay in a multi-part series of blogs regarding what the Yesh Atid party has accomplished for Israel in its year and eight months in office
As the grandson of Holocaust survivors there was nothing closer to my heart as a member of Knesset than ensuring that survivors living in Israel can live out their senior years with the dignity they deserve. I am so proud that as a result of Yesh Atid’s decision to allocate one billion NIS to assist Holocaust survivors, the State of Israel is now doing just that.
Throughout the 2013 election campaign, candidates from Yesh Atid led by MK Yair Lapid promised that we would work to make life easier and better for the citizens of Israel. As soon as MK Lapid and MK Meir Cohen entered their offices as Finance Minister and Welfare Minister, respectively, they discovered that many Holocaust survivors who helped to build our country are struggling and cannot afford their medications and monthly bills.
The first issue dealt with survivors who moved to Israel after 1953. They were not viewed or treated in the same manner as survivors who immigrated to Israel prior to 1953 and received less government assistance. Why should 18,500 survivors receive thousands of shekel less per month simply because they remained in Europe for a few years after the war while trying to rebuild themselves and their lives? Finance Minister Lapid and Welfare Minister Cohen allocated 277 million NIS to provide equal grants to survivors who moved here after 1953.
The second issue related to the minimum amount of financial assistance which Holocaust survivors receive. The government set forth criteria to determine how much money it needs to allocate to each survivor based on their physical capacities and psychological needs. The minimum had been 1,825 NIS per month and Yair Lapid and Meir Cohen believed that they must raise this minimum to accommodate for the growing needs of the survivors. They allocated 166 million NIS to raise the minimum payment received by these 70,000 survivors to 2,200 NIS per month.
The third issue focused on medications. We, in Yesh Atid, believe that it should be a core value in a Jewish state that we cover the costs of medication for Holocaust survivors. This belief became cemented when we discovered that many survivors were not taking their prescribed medicines because they simply could not afford them despite the 50% discount they received for medications included in the health basket. We allocated 130 million NIS to enable survivors to receive all medications in the health basket for free.
The fourth issue addressed the difficulty specific Holocaust survivors faced in receiving their stipends and benefits. Until now, those who moved to Israel after 1953 or those who were not in concentration camps or ghettos were entitled to compensation up to 4,000 NIS every two years for dental and vision coverage. However, they were required to save and present their receipts to the relevant offices. We did not believe it was ethical to make these specific survivors deal with such a difficult bureaucratic requirement in order to receive assistance simply because they moved to Israel after a certain date or because we view their survival during the war as “easier” since they were not in a camp or ghetto. Therefore, the Yesh Atid ministers changed the policy. At an annual cost of 288 million NIS, 80,000 survivors now receive an annual grant of 3,600 NIS to help them deal with their dental, optical, or other needs and we arranged for these funds to be deposited directly into their bank accounts.
We addressed additional pressing needs of Holocaust survivors including additional welfare services and, in total, allocated one billion NIS to improve their lives. We are very proud that in just a year and eight months in office we were able to enhance the lives of Holocaust survivors in such a tangible manner. We look forward to waking up on the morning of March 18 after the elections and getting right back to work on these and many other crucial issues facing Israel today while also looking ahead towards its future.