Translation of an article that appeared in Maariv.
We charitable-organization personnel would like to be unemployed, but poverty is spreading like a cancer.
Where the elderly are concerned, our job is much harder. The saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” may be true for young people, but how is that supposed to solve the problems faced by seniors?
For 33 years the Chasdei Naomi organization has been on the frontlines of the war on poverty, along with the relevant parliamentary entities and fellow nonprofits. For 33 years we’ve been trying to build up an arsenal for our fighters, our brave volunteers, and to keep our organization afloat. The public is big-hearted and does its best, both in terms of financial donations and in terms of direct food contributions.
Food companies also mobilize for the task, but it’s not enough. We’re winning the battle but not the war for the more than 50,000 needy Israelis to whom we provide assistance.
As the CEO of a major charitable organization, I have to share my thoughts. Sometimes, when I think about the word “poverty,” I feel as though it’s some kind of creature we’re fighting, which manages to sustain itself over time. We, the organizations, can only take swipes at it. Little by little we’re getting the creature to slow down, to stop advancing on the low-income populations, which we’re trying to surround with a wall of protection.
But whenever I start feeling a little optimistic, I get a reminder that it’s only fiction. The poverty report is just one of these reminders, but we don’t need reports, we encounter the harsh reality on a daily basis.
True, if we take a long-term view and focus on the younger generation, maybe we can solve the problem, but how can we look Holocaust survivors and other seniors in the eye? How can we face their wrinkles, their frailty, with false optimism in the face of our shame? All we can do is look at them and cry. Cry and feel ashamed.
I apologize to Israel’s elderly, I apologize on behalf of the country’s charitable organizations – I apologize for the fact that we aren’t winning the war on poverty for you. We’re doing the maximum, we’re managing to help you survive – but surviving isn’t exactly living.
The lives of low-income seniors are lives of despair, since for most it isn’t just poverty but also loneliness, and if the poverty doesn’t kill you – the loneliness does!
I sometimes hear skeptics say “There’s no poverty in Israel,” or “There are no poor Holocaust survivors.” Well, I suggest you enter the Chasdei Naomi website and view our campaign on behalf of the older generation and its needs.
Anyone who still doesn’t believe there’s a problem is welcome to call 03-6777777 and ask for me. You don’t think there are hungry seniors? Seniors who avoid using electricity because they have no money and are forced to suffer in the cold?
Let’s make an appointment, I’ll show you.
The author is the CEO of the charitable organization Chasdei Naomi.