Following months of delays, and due to pressure exerted by Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), some 11,000 Holocaust survivors will receive by Wednesday benefits that have been withheld from them for nearly a year due to a legal dispute between the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets and the Otsar Hityashvuth Hayehudim (OHH) holding company.
The former company provides NIS 2,700 to needy survivors every three months, but it ran into solvency problems in June and the only funds currently available are the holding company’s Bank Leumi shares. However, OHH, which is partly owned by the World Zionist Organization, does not want to sell the shares because the share price has declined. The legal battle is over whether OHH should be forced to sell its shares.
Following the Finance Committee`s recent meeting, Ofra Ross, director of the Holocaust Survivors` Rights Authority, agreed to Gafni`s request and proposed that her agency would loan the restitution company 30 million shekels so that it may pay stipends to Holocaust survivors ahead of the upcoming Passover holiday.
The temporary solution was made possible due to Gafni`s persistent efforts and numerous Finance Committee meetings on the issue.
(MK Moshe Gafni)
In a letter to Gafni, the head of the organization of Forced Laborers under the Nazi Occupation, Mordechai Hareli, thanked the Finance Committee chairman – also on behalf of the Holocaust survivors who are waiting to receive the stipends – for his continuous efforts to find a solution that would allow the transfer of the funds regardless of the legal dispute.
”There are not enough words to praise your contribution to resolving this painful problem,” said Hareli in the letter. ”You fought vigorously and did not loosen the grip on the representatives of bureaucracy. You were not fooled by the numerous excuses, and your eyes were set on one goal only: Doing justice to the survivors, who survived the hell and now, in their old age, are forced to face a bureaucratic system that is oblivious to their distress. I wish other elected officials, who claim to be public servants and [speak as though they are concerned about the survivors], would act with the courage and determination you have displayed. In contrast to what is customary here, your actions are dictated by compassion and a sense of mission, and they are devoid of any pursuit of status or publicity.” Hareli also wrote Ross and thanked her for efforts.
Gafni said he was pleased that stipends would be paid before Passover, but stressed that he plans to continue the deliberations after the holiday in order to bring an end to the unnecessary bureaucratic and legal procedures which delay the transfer of the funds.
”The number of Holocaust survivors is constantly decreasing, and it is our duty as a society to make certain that they receive the [benefits due them] by law, and soon,” he said.