Holocaust Survivors in Israel: Population Estimates, Demographic, Health and Social Characteristics, and Needs

Commissioned by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, the study focuses on the population of Holocaust survivors living in Israel today and future projections: their numbers, characteristics, situation and needs in social and healthcare spheres. This is in order to help the various organizations servicing the population to set policy, continue service development and determine priorities. In order to arrive at the findings, a number of sources of information were used, including surveys conducted by Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (a survey of needs among the population of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel and their families and a survey of Holocaust survivors eligible for benefits under the Long-Term Care Insurance Law), interviews with professionals at long-term care institutions and a discussion forum with senior professionals caring for the elderly, particularly survivors. The National Health Survey of the Central Bureau of Statistics for 2003/4 was also used.

It was found that at the end of 2008, there were some 233,700 Holocaust survivors living in Israel. Study estimates predict that the number will decrease in the coming years to 143,900 in 2015 and 46,900 in 2025. The survivor population is aging: at the end of 2008, some 7% were under the age of 70 and 45% were over the age of 80; in 2015, two-thirds will be 80+ and in 2020-25, almost all the survivors will be these ages. Despite the declining number of Holocaust survivors, the magnitude of their needs is decreasing far more slowly, since the population is aging and its needs therefore, are, growing. For example, while the projections indicate that the number of survivors will decline by 38% between the end of 2008 and the end of 2015, the percentage of survivors eligible for benefits under the LTC Law will decline by only 17%.

The data show that survivors living in Israel today suffer from a high prevalence of problems connected to the cardiovascular system, chronic skeletal pain and insomnia. The prevalence of these problems increases greatly among the 80+ age group. The study found that survivors who immigrated from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s suffer from a higher incidence of health problems than those who immigrated before 1990. The survey of survivors assisted by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel revealed that, compared to the general survivor population living in Israel, beneficiaries of Foundation support suffer from poorer health and are more restricted in ADL. This is the direct result of their greater age and the fact that it is precisely due to their limitations that applicants apply for Foundation assistance. The study also revealed unmet needs in several areas, such as the need for a greater number of hours of homecare, as well as social needs – for example, a large percentage of survivors (about 40%) often feel very lonely and most reported a low frequency of going out for cultural activities or entertainment.

Senior healthcare and social service professionals who participated in a discussion group emphasized the significant increase in the survivors’ needs as the population ages and the implications for the service system. They also stressed that the findings would help them to prepare for the future, especially in the area of community services.

The study was commissioned by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel with the support of the Claims Commission.