Israel's Survivor Community

June 15, 2005 We met with Dubby Arbell, Director-General of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.

Meeting Summary:

  • We went around the room and briefly exchanged family stories. Specifically, Dubby wanted to know where our grandparents/parents were from. Latvia, Poland, Romania and Russia were some of our answers. Dubby told us how his father, a Danish Jew, had been saved from deportation by being secretly ferried, under cover of darkness, over the straits to safe and neutral Sweden.
  • Dubby talked about Israel's survivor community: The not-so-warm response they initially received from the natives; The events that led to the gradual change in the way Israel views its survivor citizens: The Eichmann trial, the Yom Kippur War and the more recent John Demanjuk trial. He also mentioned that Israel's current Chief Rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, is a survivor and has recently put out his autobiography.
  • Dubby described his organization and the challenges it faces: The several channels of aid they offer survivors, from home nursing care, to an individual grants program to the "Flower for a Survivor" program, which provides survivors visits from teenagers, an enriching experience for both. He discussed the problem of solitude in particular. He noted that at least 20% of survivors in Israel have not rebuilt families since the war and survivors with families are, nevertheless, in need of special services. We also discussed the reasons why some survivors in Israel live below the poverty line, and how that's being addressed.

In closing, Dubby stressed the importance of being close with our grandparents. We should take advantage of the fact that many survivors are more open with our generation and would be more than willing to meet with us and share their stories. Dubby urged that we all keep in touch with him and one day soon we'll all meet together again in Israel.