Friday, August 17, 2012

Don't turn your backs on the survivors

Don't turn your backs on the survivors

Colette Avital

There are some 10,000 Holocaust survivors living in poverty in the State of Israel today. Israel owes a historic debt to these people, and every day there are fewer and fewer of them. In 2008, the Company for the Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets enlisted to help these people by paying money into their accounts, fully subsidizing their medications and giving them paid charge cards for the purchase of food every month.

As part of this assistance, the company created the "Tav Mekol Halev" (“Voucher From the Heart”) project, which provides a fixed sum (200 shekels, or $50) every month to help Holocaust survivors stock their refrigerators. In the framework of this important project, the company approached the various supermarket chains, urging them to take part, naively believing that they would gladly jump on board. But, much to their surprise, the only supermarket chain that joined was Mega. The chain immediately announced that it would be happy to help in any way possible, and the successful cooperation with the chain continues today, contributing immensely to needy Holocaust survivors.

But unlike the Mega chain, all the other supermarket chains refused to join the project, even the ones that publicly pursue social justice. As a result, Holocaust survivors across the country m have no other choice but to travel very long distances, often using public transportation, to take advantage of this service. It is important to mention that the supermarket chains were not asked to contribute any money, as the service would be fully paid for by the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets.

All the chains were asked to do was to honor the Holocaust victims' magnetic cards. But, as it turns out, the welfare of Holocaust survivors does not concern Israel's food chains. They are concerned more with increasing their profit shares and less with lending a hand to needy Holocaust survivors or providing services to citizens.

Since the inception of this project, the company has repeatedly asked the food chains to reconsider and cooperate, to alleviate the suffering of the elderly survivors, but to no avail. Some of the chains declined politely or dragged their feet, and some didn't even bother to respond to the company's repeated pleas.

Every day that goes by is critical for Holocaust survivors. We don't have the luxury of wasting precious time, and we must do everything within our power to ensure that the survivors live out their final days in dignity. It is shocking that in Israel, of all places, all the supermarket chains but one have turned their backs on the few Holocaust survivors who are still alive.