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

By Ben Sales

Published November 25, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(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.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.