Holocaust Survivors Struggle To Survive on Pittance in Israel

Anger Grows Among Last Living Generation

Many Complaints: Israeli Holocaust survivors mount protest over their treatment by the government.
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Many Complaints: Israeli Holocaust survivors mount protest over their treatment by the government.

By Ben Sales

Published November 25, 2013.
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(JTA) — Breakfast costs Dov Jakobovitz $2. Lunch costs him $2.25. Both are served in the public old-age home in south Tel Aviv where he lives. But the food is not to his liking.

Jakobovitz longs for the dishes he ate as a child in Transylvania – gefilte fish, goulash, chicken wings – rather than the rice-and-salad fare more typical of the Israeli diet. A restaurant he enjoys in the center of the city serves such Ashkenazi fare, but he can’t afford it. For dinner, he eats leftovers from lunch.

But Jakobovitz knows it could be worse. Born in the Romanian town of Satmar in 1928, Jakobovitz was deported with his family to Auschwitz at age 14. The memory of watching his mother sent to the left in the selection line, to the gas chambers, still haunts him.

“In the concentration camp, we ate the shavings of carrots and vegetables,” he recalls. “We had wooden shoes. We ate from our hands, from our hat. We’d be satisfied with enough to eat from that. That was in Auschwitz.”

Jakobovitz made it to prestate Israel in 1947 and was immediately drafted into the Haganah, the Zionist military organization. He fought in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and in the 1967 Six-Day War. Today he can’t meet basic monthly expenses.

He receives $1,200 every three months in reparations from the German government and another $120 per month from Israel, but it’s not enough. Jakobovitz skimps on buying medicine to save money. He doesn’t buy new clothes, and purchases only the cheapest shoes – they hurt his feet. Only rarely does he splurge on organized day trips for the elderly.

And he’s not alone.

A report this year by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel found that a majority of Israel’s 192,000 survivors are struggling economically. Another 40 percent report feeling “very lonely.” Two-thirds are unsatisfied with government assistance for survivors. And 92 percent feel the government doesn’t invest enough in their welfare.


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