Other Security Issues Demand Attention

If you’re reading this you’re probably, like me, gripped by the news here in Israel. The last few days it has been difficult to keep up with the number of attacks, and almost impossible to focus on anything else. But at the same time that we try to deal with the immediate threats and the broader issues of regional security, we have to move forward with our lives. Not just because the distraction makes us feel better. But because other hugely significant issues in this country need our attention. Today I’m asking you to turn your attention to financial security and Bituach Leumi (the National Insurance Institute) and the attempts to overhaul a system that touches the lives of every single Israeli, regardless of their religion or political beliefs.

All Israeli citizens, from birth until death, receive some sort of benefit from Bituach Leumi (BL). The Israeli equivalent to America’s Social Security Administration, although dispensing a much wider range of benefits. it is a concept central to the Socialist ethos that founded this state. Those who need more help are entitled to a larger stipend. And as privatization alters the way people and business interact and benefit from government money, it is a remaining vestige of to commitment of this country to take care of all its citizens. But unfortunately the system is broken. And individual attempts to navigate or fix the system will never be effective. That is where YEDID, an empowerment organization, comes in.

YEDID’s day-to-day efforts to represent people struggling to access their rights gives them an unparalleled understanding of what is broken and how to fix it. Vardit Dameri-Madar, who heads up the legal department at YEDID and the effort to reform Bituach Leumi says the structure, policy and service at Bituach Leumi need a massive overhaul. This past March she led a YEDID delegation to the Knesset to present a reform proposal.

Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the new director general of the Institute, along with eight Knesset Members, heard Dameri-Madar and her team explain the issues and their proposals. YEDID also brought a number of private citizens who had the chance to describe their difficulties. Mor-Yosef was clearly listening. The exchange was respectful.  says he is open to change, and understands the experience that YEDID brings. Since taking the helm at Bituach Leumi a year ago, he has already made important progress improving service.

Dameri-Madar says that the service is the most difficult part of working with Bituach Leumi. “Issues take too long to resolve. Answers are unclear. And it’s always easier to say no than yes. The bureaucracy is way too complicated.”

In one case a young single mother supporting a 4-year-old boy alone loses her income support because she starts studying in an effort to improve her career prospects. In another a family is deemed ineligible for income support because the various computer systems at Bitach Leumi don’t communicate.

Government agencies like the BL take notice when YEDID gets involved. Unfortunately for the thousands of citizens who struggle alone, the system remains confusing and unyielding.

YEDID is building a Knesset lobby to work with Bituach Leumi. “Our clients do not have a voice. When we come to the Knesset we represent more than 5,000 people who have come to YEDID so far this year with Bituach Leumi issues.”

“In Professor Mor-Yosef we have a partner who wants to work with us,” says Dameri-Madar. “But it’s a long process that will require patience, hard work and broad support.”

So here’s another suggestion to distract you from the frightening news. Matti Caspi and Shlomo Gronich are performing on October 26th, at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to celebrate YEDID’s Legal Department. Go have some fun. Even better, you’ll be helping YEDID do the important work that they do for all of us. And together we all move forward.

To order tickets, contact Merav: | 02-679-0710

About the Author
Sharon Cohen is a recent immigrant from South Africa who has returned to Israel after spending the last 25 years in the United States. She has a Masters degree in Journalism and a successful career in the toy industry. Along with other volunteer activities, she works at Yedid, a citizen empowerment organization with 15 centers throughout the country.