A freak winter storm that blew across Israel in December last year, causing unusually low temperatures for the region and even snow in some areas, highlighted the struggles faced by elderly residents. Ynet News reported a story describing the plight of 83 year old Dr Valentine Akabson who lives by himself in a small rented apartment in an old and partly damaged building. The windows are not sealed or insulated, and during the storm he was afraid to turn on his heater as he cannot afford his electricity bills. “Maybe for a few minutes before I go to sleep,” he said apologetically. “I sit at home everyday with enough coats as if I was outside.” Dr Akabson receives no pension and has to survive on a small stipend from the government and an allowance for rent. “I’m barely living. I don’t have a social life and I can’t celebrate holidays,” he said. “I always have a dilemma what to buy: Food or medicine. The stipend doesn't cover everything."
According to 2012 statistics released recently by Israel's National Insurance Institute, there was an increase in the number of elderly people living below the poverty line. Although pensions were increased slightly in the past years, poverty still rose among the elderly due to the high general cost of living in Israel and the fact that many pensioners either do not have sufficient pension provision, or any pension at all, and survive on other government allowances that didn't increase with inflation.
Statistics suggest as many as 20% of Israel's seniors are forced to forgo heating their houses in winter because of economic problems. Many also have to choose between food or medication.
|Holocaust Survivor receives food vouchers|
Your People My People were privileged to accompany Israeli ministry Helping Hand Coalition (HHC) as they visited some of these Holocaust Survivors in the city of Ashdod. They are tackling the problems raised by Israel's National Insurance Institute statistics, practically and effectively - doing all they can to address the effects of economic hardship. To help alleviate the financial struggles, HHC distributes vouchers that can be redeemed in local supermarkets. Each home opened up to us, expressed immense gratitude for this gift. Without such help for groceries, many of these elderly survivors would be forced to go hungry as medical bills and rent eat up their small incomes. HHC visits Holocaust Survivors all over Israel distributing vouchers and spending time chatting with each individual. For the holidays special food parcels were also distributed with traditional treats for the celebration.
|20% of elderly Israelis live below the poverty line|
Homes in the Middle East are designed to release hot summer heat as quickly as possible so when winter arrives, the cooler temperatures are exacerbated by cold buildings. Old dual air-conditioning/heating systems found in many apartments are often expensive to run so last winter, HHC gifted the Holocaust Survivors they visit with smaller, energy efficient heaters. "This gift not only warms our body", said one elderly survivor, "but also our hearts. We have not been forgotten."
|HHC gives out energy efficient heaters for the winter|
|"This gift also warms our hearts"|