My very first blog of March 15, 2018 raised the question posed in the title. This is the sequel to it.
In the first one, I addressed the question as to why Israel with its strong economy and wealthy denizens could not address the problem of child hunger. The question was raised by the numerous solicitations for a donation (even after I made mine) I received from the Meir Panim organisation whose mandate is “Fighting Poverty in Israel”. Their solicitation blurb, among other things, stated that “2 out of every 5 children in Israel go to bed hungry. We need your help.”
This time around, I became very upset, bitter and angry when I found out about Israel’s State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s scathing report issued last year that paints a shocking picture of the government’s failure to provide proper help to the Israeli Holocaust survivors
Here is a government that provides generous financial assistance to the Haredi and to their institutions, who prioritise their alleged religious rights over their respective obligations to their society and fellow citizens and their duties to the State; do not recognise the legitimacy of the State of Israel; refuse to serve in the IDF, or celebrate Israel’s Day of Independence, with merely 17% of them “agree[ing] very much” or “ quite agree[ing ]” with the statement that “Independence Day is a holiday”.
Even more perplexing, 40% of them saying that they do not see Holocaust Remembrance as a day of mourning to them, while another 26% “do not agree so much” that it is a day of mourning. And shockingly enough, while more than half of the Haredi of the older generation, age 56 and over, see Holocaust Day as a day of mourning, only a third of the younger generation ages 18-24, see it as an occasion for mourning.
The foregoing survey data was compiled by Professor Tamar Hermann and Orr Inbari of the Guttman Centre for Public Opinion Research and Policy, from a large-scale study based on a public opinion survey of a sample of 1010 participants from the Haredi population.
Coming back to the Holocaust survivors in Israel, in a story published in the Jerusalem Post on April 10, Aviva Silberman, founder and executive director of Aviv LeNitzolei HaShoah (Spring for Holocaust Survivors),a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping the survivors in Israel realise their rights, stated: ” About one –quarter of Holocaust survivors live in poverty, and more than half are unaware of the rights and benefits to which they are legally entitled…That could , if realised, mean the difference between a life of poverty and a life of dignity and physical well-being.” By way of illustration of the magnitude of the latter problem, Silberman said that “over the course of a decade, [her] organisation has been able to help more than 60,000 survivors, gaining rights and benefits for them that are worth more than NIS 350 million”.
Nevertheless, an indeterminate number of Holocaust survivors whose needs and daily challenges are not being properly looked after are still often dying in dire financial straits.
The Shapira report is not the first time these problems have been identified. In fact, I remember discussing their neglect and the problems associated with it quite a long time ago with my late uncle who was an Israeli medical practitioner, and with others, since then.
According to the World Bank Israel is the 26th richest country on earth.
The country is rich all right but it is kind of wealth that asphyxiates decency, generosity and caring and thereby humiliates one of, if not the most ,vulnerable groups of the country, the Holocaust survivors by denying them the possibility of leading a life of dignity and physical well-being in their declining years.
Besides bragging about Israel and its economic miracle and achievements, what is all the Jewish MKs, the religiously observant ones in particular, and the Cabinet doing about this national shame?
They should instead be crying out loud: mea culpa, mea culpa mea culpa maxima, and to seek G-d’s forgiveness and hopefully that of the Holocaust survivors by, once and for all, properly caring for them by becoming generously responsive to the needs of those of our people who had the misfortune to be at the wrong places at the wrong time to live through hell on earth; who then had the good fortune to survive it all, only to be marginalised and grossly neglected in their own homeland, by their own government voted in by their own people.
Is anyone in Eretz Israel listening? I pray so.