Letters of the poor in Israel

While Sharon has plenty of money to spend on bombing the Palestinian people and on building a wall to steal more of their land, inside Israel itself another war is going on, the war of the rich against the poor. Poverty levels have shot up and many of Israel’s Jews are living in terrible conditions. This is particularly true of the newly arrived immigrants. Many Jews left Russia thinking they would find a better life in Israel. Instead what they find is degrading and humiliating conditions. The government has been systematically attacking welfare and health.

In Israel the medical service is, to say the least, in a mess! Everyone pays a health tax, including the disabled. The tax is deducted from their pensions. Visits to the doctor are free, but a visit to a consultant, or an X-Ray or any other form of scan, cost money, except for the disabled and pensioners who are exempt. To go to the Casualty Department, one needs a referral letter from the doctor. As all surgeries are closed here in the evening this can lead to a situation where on having to go to Casualty a retroactive doctor’s letter is needed, and this costs 200 Shekels. If the doctor refuses the letter on the grounds that he does not feel the casualty visit was needed, the full cost to the hospital is 500 Shekels ($120). If one calls an ambulance the cost is 500 Shekels and there is no way of getting this cost back either whole or in part. So an emergency visit to Casualty in Israel can cost as much as $240, or about £130 pounds sterling!

To give our readers a taste of the real situation facing many poor Jews in Israel we are publishing three letters sent to various authorities. The first letter here below, is a plea to the lawyer who is suing this woman for non-payment of the ambulance fee, on behalf of the ambulance service!

The case of Zinida – on trial for calling an ambulance!

Dear Lawyer,

I Zinida on the 31 July 2000 felt very bad. I was alone at home. I took medication for the pain I was in, but my pain did not go away. In fact it got worse, to such an extent that I could not get out of bed or breath, I could not even take one step. So much so I felt my life was in danger. This is the reason I called the ambulance service.

I am disabled; I receive 2000 Shekels a month. My son who lives with me has recently finished his army service, and is unemployed. I pay $500 (2250 Shekels) a month for my apartment. I have no money to live on. I go to the market and pick up food from the floor so that we can eat.

I’m begging you; please release me from the debt I owe to the ambulance service.

Thank you with all my heart,

Zinida.

This request was of course refused (who ever heard of a lawyer with a heart) and the woman is now waiting to go on trail! 

The case of Galena and her daughter – out on the streets due to disability!

Re: Problems of badly disabled new immigrant and her daughter.

I Galena arrived in the country about a year ago. I resided in a small town some 20 kilometres from Tel Aviv with my daughter. That is where our problems began.

During the first six months I received a grant from the Ministry of Absorption like every new immigrant. Later I could not find work on account of the fact that I am badly disabled and the Ministry of Absorption stopped paying the grant at the same time that I rented an apartment with my daughter for a year and because they ceased to pay me the absorption grant I got into economic difficulties and could not pay the rent and was evicted from the apartment. I received a one-off payment of 1000 Shekels from the Ministry of Absorption but that was not enough in order to pay the rent.

At the same time my daughter left the school where she had been studying because no one spoke Russian there, and there were no Hebrew classes for new immigrants. She found it very hard, because she does not know one word of Hebrew. At night she was sleeping on park benches. She ate food from a soup kitchen. In the end she found a cave in a rock and slept there. It was better than the bench. I turned to the Bureau of Welfare in the town but I did not get any help from them.

One day as we went to get food from the soup kitchen, a police patrol car stopped, arrested and forcibly took my daughter, without any explanation. The police took her to the youth department at the police station in Tel Aviv and from there they sent her to the closed department in a lunatic asylum for children in another town. They did this without any explanation, only because we are new immigrants and do not know Hebrew.

They arrested me as well without explanation, on the pretence that they had found an apartment for me. They took me to an old folks’ home for the mentally insane. There I encountered drug addicts and alcoholics. I am not a drug addict and not an alcoholic. I brought up five children.

After lingering several weeks in the madhouse my daughter was sent to an establishment for delinquent youth. The girls there are prostitutes, alcoholics, and drug addicts. What could my daughter learn there?

Among all the staff not a single one could speak Russian, and she was forbidden to talk to any of those inmates who did talk Russian. I’m talking about girls older than her, prostitutes, alcoholics, and drug addicts.

They did not let me visit her. I was supposed to call previously to making a visit. Why cannot I as a mother visit my daughter? She is a good healthy girl, not a delinquent. Why treat us like that? Only on account of the fact that we are new immigrants and that we do not know Hebrew?

Israel prides itself in saying that it is a democracy, but where is this democracy they are so proud of? They took us forcibly and they isolated us. Where is the justice??? To this day I don’t understand why we were arrested. To my request for help from the Bureau of Welfare instead of help I received what I have related already.

Now I receive 1800 Shekels a month as a disabled person plus supplementary benefit to be paid sometime in the future, plus 1170 Shekel rent allowance.

I rented an apartment, a room and half, and now I am settled and I want my daughter to be returned to me. I could be responsible for her and see that she will be a good girl. I will make sure that she will study and I hope very much that we will be financially secure and will not lack for anything. We lived in the street because as a new immigrant I didn't receive a penny from any governmental office neither for food, nor for rent.

I have met many disabled people like myself, and their situation is just as hard, and all of this on account of the indifference to their difficult situation and of the lack of inter office communication between the various government departments.

At the Bureau of Labour they treated me in an ugly uncaring manner, lacking humanity. The Bureau of Welfare has left a stigma on my daughter for the rest of her life.

Sincerely yours,

Galina.

The case of soldier Maxim – survives being shot but then gets 10 days in prison

Dear Northern command - Office of the General Staff,

I am Zeena, a 100% disabled mother of Maxim a soldier, driver in the Israeli Defense Force. He sits at the wheel for more than 12 hours a day. He travels all over the country in the service of the army. The previous week, my boy together with guards that were with him, strayed on the way to the base at Jenin. All of a sudden shots rang out past their heads. The guards disappeared inside the car on account that they were scared to death. My son survived by a miracle and only two of the soldiers survived. For this my son was sent to prison for ten days.

This event has left my son traumatized; his request for counselling was refused. He cannot sleep at night, and feels terrible. All this he told me when he was finally released on leave from prison.

My son was supposed to finish his army service on April 30, and help me with my financial situation which is very bad as is my mental health. I’m a disabled person, I receive 200 Shekels a month, plus $480 for the rent. For my son I get nothing. My son as a soldier receives 300 Shekels ($60). We live on pennies; I go to the market and pick up fruit and vegetables off the floor, and on this we live! Social workers run a mile from soldiers like my son.

Your honour, The Chief of Staff, I beg you as Maxim’s mother, please release my son from prison. My son is not guilty of anything! And please investigate why my son was not paid what he as a soldier is entitled to. And why did the officers behave in an offensive way to my son, cursing him endlessly, and demoralizing him? And why for the last three months has my son has not received a single penny from the army?

Yours sincerely,

Maxims Mother.