There are currently more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel who are eligible to receive government benefits such as tax breaks and assistance in purchasing medicines and various other expenses. As of 2015, 20-30% of Holocaust survivors in Israel were living below the poverty line.
The Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority was established in the mid-1950s to oversee these benefits, but over the past decade public outcry has resulted in greater efforts to ease the economic and social difficulties of this population.
A dramatic rise in spending on pensions and benefits for the Holocaust survivor population began in 2008. The increase was sparked by amendments to the law that allowed disabled Holocaust survivors who had not filed claims in the past to do so, and expanded eligibility to include those who were affected by the deportations in countries under German influence during World War II. Because of these changes, spending on Holocaust survivors rose from 0.5% of total government spending in 2000 to 0.7% in 2008. In the past two years, the budget has continued to grow and spending today comes to about 0.9% of total government expenditure and about 5% of all social security spending.
What’s new in the policy for 2017-2018?
Towards the end of 2016 compensation for Holocaust survivors was retroactively raised (for October 2015 through the end of 2016) by NIS 34 million and the addition was further increased to NIS 48 million beginning this year.
As part of the 2017-2018 budget, the annual grant for Holocaust survivors was increased from 3,600 NIS a year to 3,960 NIS a year. In addition, benefits for Holocaust survivors were extended to those from Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq who experienced anti-Semitism and suffered from other restrictions during World War II. These survivors are entitled to an annual grant of about 600 NIS and exemption from payment for prescription drugs included in the public health basket.
What are the greatest challenges for implementing the policy?
Despite the expansion of eligibility and amendments to the law, there are many Holocaust survivors who are entitled to allowances and benefits, yet do not receive them in practice. This is because the burden is on them to initiate the process and prove that they are indeed entitled to the benefits, which involves complex bureaucratic processes. As a result, not all survivors receive the benefits due to them by law.