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S is in great trouble, without a home, without a proper income and the State of Israel does nothing to help him.
This week I met S., a man in his fifties, who came to us for help. At the time of our meeting the National Insurance’s Report on Poverty was published. To us, in the rights center, these facts were not a surprise, we know the faces behind the statistics, the awful feeling of someone who has no food and no home. In grace after meal there is a sentence that echoes in my head since I started working in the rights center. “May God make us dependent not on the alms or
loans of others, but rather on God’s full, open and generous hand, so that we may never be humiliated or put to shame”. Every time I encounter such a story, I think how clever and understanding our Sages were. They knew that when one man depends on the other without any proper arrangement, this aid will be given by humiliating and shaming the poor, which is what is happening today in the State of Israel.
The story of S shows how easy it is to deteriorate financially and get to the place of being needy, a place that in the State of Israel today is a place of shame.
S was a successful business man until the National Security office decided that he owes them money and confiscated a part of his business. Following the confiscation, the business collapsed and S became an employee. He tried to better his financial situation by coming up with new initiatives, but he did not succeed and he remained with heavy debts. He tried to sue the National Insurance office for the damages they caused him but in order to do it he needed to pay toll of 200,000 NIS, that he did not have. In addition to all his troubles he also had, half a year ago a stroke, lost his capacity to work and needs medication. Today he has no home, he gets only disability pension and guaranteed minimal income – 2040 NIS a month. From this amount of money the National Insurance takes off 250 NIS for his debt. He does not get public housing or other help for housing because in the past he had an apartment, and because the trial of his mother’s inheritance is not over yet. He was allowed to live in an apartment for free, but 1800 NIS is not enough for a living. He can not buy all the medicines he needs, he can not buy himself food (he receives NGO’s help). To day he has a roof over his head and food, but he cannot buy all the medicines he needs.
In May he will have to leave the apartment, and then the impossible Israeli bureaucracy will drown him, he will remain homeless and incapable to pay for housing.
Difficulty and the desperation accompanied our conversation. I can not offer him real solutions as our rights center deals with utilization of rights. We will examine the issue of helping with rent (1000 NIS a month), but I am afraid that as a result of his debts, the bureaucracy will let the State of Israel, evade this payment. We will check with the National Insurance office if there is a possibility to reduce his monthly payments and will accompany him to the National Insurance committees with hope of succeeding to increase his disability pension. This is a marginal case and I do not know if we will succeed and do not know how long it will take to get replies from all the different factors, but we have a deadline. In May he will have to leave the apartment.
But even if we do succeed in utilizing all his rights, something people can not do on their own, the essence will remain – a man works many years, pays a lot of money to the National Insurance office, and when he gets into trouble the State of Israel provides him with a sum of money that is not enough to live on. Our Jewish belief, our morality needs to be a clear road sign in front of us – we can not permit that in our country people will live on the streets, will be hungry, will not be able to buy medicines, and today there are many people like this.
In a properly conducted country a man in his condition would have a right to a pension that enables him to live (to buy medications and food, to pay for electricity, water and local taxes), he would have received public housing and not been thrown to the private market and he would have been offered professional rehabilitation.
In a properly run country a man could turn to the National Insurance office and receive what he is entitled to without needing help from a rights center or a lawyer (that he can not pay). In a proper country a man who gets to the bottom would have received a helping hand and not a message that he in a liar and a thief and he is entitled for nothing.
S is afraid of May, he is not ready to be homeless and is not ready to pay the price the State wants him to pay to make us all afraid of the moment it will happen to us (it is easy to get to this point) and therefore we will cooperate with the government. After the last summer I hope that S will not be alone in his struggle and that we will not have to read of the desperate horrible things he chose to do as a response to economical troubles.