Opinion: Israel must begin taking better care of those who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, but cannot live out the rest of their lives in dignity, spending their twilight years worrying about having enough food and medicine

On Thursday morning, when Israel will stand still during the two-minute siren in honor of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, we must also remember those who actually survived the genocide.

These people survived the horrors of World War ll, yet they can’t make it through the month in the State of Israel, spending their twilight years in dire conditions, which include starvation, neglect, poverty, and unbearable loneliness.

עומדים בצפירת יום השואה בתל אביב
Israelis stand during Holocaust Remembrance Day siren (Photo: Tal Shahar)


But most of all, they feel forgotten and betrayed by the country they love so much. A country that they built with their own hands and sacrificed everything in order to get here.

When they first arrived to the promised land, they were filled with the hope of a better life having fought off its wars. They built a home and a family here, all while living in the tough Israeli reality with the trauma of the horrors of war.

The painful childhood memories which they wish to forget flood their consciousness day and night, never letting go. The images of death, hunger, pain, and fear stretching to the dark days of when the world lost its humanity, but they somehow managed to hold on to faith and survive.

צילומים של 400 ניצולי שואה שתיעד הצלם לואיג'י טוסקנו
Holocaust Remembrance Day (Photo: WJC, Sahar Azran)


Think about those who sit in their homes, completely lonely, spending their last days staring at the TV screen, waiting for another day to pass, for life to pass. Nobody knocks on their door, nobody calls to ask how they are doing. And sometimes, they go days without speaking to a single soul, simply because they have no one to talk to.

Think about the fact that every fourth Holocaust survivor in Israel lives below the poverty line. They find themselves forced to choose again and again between medicine and food. They spend the cold winter days with no heat because they can’t afford the high electricity bills. They are crushed under the weight of Israel’s high cost of living, and unwillingly have to give up on more and more products just to survive. They can’t buy basic goods that would help them make their lives a little less painful.

Many of them are not even aware of their rights, while others have given up on the arduous bureaucratic journey. Those who don’t have a strong family to accompany them have a slim chance of winning that battle of bureaucratic attrition, which in many cases would make them entitled to nothing more than minuscule stipends.

Now ask yourself, are we doing enough for these people?

Israelis protest for social justice for Holocaust survivors back in 2013
Israelis protest for social justice for Holocaust survivors back in 2013 (Photo: Yaron Brener)


A year and a half ago, 89-year-old Holocaust survivor Nylan Reich called Ynet’s sister outlet Yedioth Ahronoth and asked us to come and see how Holocaust survivors live in Israel. All he wanted is for us to hear his cry for help. A few hours later, we arrived at his home.

His apartment was filled with dirt and garbage, and he was struggling to take care of himself because of impaired vision and other illnesses. “I want everyone to see how Holocaust survivors of my age live, those who lost everything during the war,” he said with great pain.

“It pains me to think about how all the Holocaust survivors who died in recent years, had to fight in Israel just to survive. I find myself crying at home. I came to Israel, almost alone, because I didn’t want to stay in the place where all my family died. But even now, at my age, I’m suffering.”

נילן רייך
Nylan Reich, 89-year-old Holocaust survivor (Photo: Avigail Uzi)


Reich succumbed to COVID a few months ago, feeling neglected, abandoned, heartbroken and hurt by the country he loved so much.

Israel’s motto is “never forget,” but it requires us to remember the legacy not only of the dead, but also the living. We’re in the final stretch. About 40 Holocaust survivors die every day, and this is our last chance to allow them to live out their last days with dignity, the right to die with dignity.

They deserve the State of Israel to do everything for them to have a better life.

As reported by Ynetnews