Cold and Alone, Israel’s Poverty-stricken Elderly Brace for Winter

November 29, 2019

by: Amir Alon

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Bridges for Peace volunteers distributing warm blankets to Holocaust survivors

Friday, 29 November 2019 | Although the quality of care and assistance received by elderly Israelis has improved, there are still hundreds of old men and women who will spend the coming winter shivering and alone in their meager homes, with no heat, no nutritional food and nothing to ease the harshness of the cold season.

The number of impoverished senior citizens in the country has been dropping every year. Still the risk of living below the poverty line for Israelis over the age of 65 is higher than the average for most OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries.

In addition, at least 23% of Israel’s elderly population appear to live completely alone.

According to the Israeli Center for Legal Guardianship [ICLG]—a public trust that helps the impoverished elderly in all walks of life based on their needs and financial situation—there are thousands of Israelis for whom the winter is nothing but a reoccurring nightmare.

65-year-old M. resides in a small apartment in Jerusalem. He has a mental disability, and after the death of his parents and siblings he was appointed a guardian from the ICLG.

He lives in constant fear of winter. Last year, he says, was particularly difficult and he fears he would not be able to survive another cold season.

His windows and shutters are broken and fail to keep the freezing Jerusalem wind at bay while the damp and mold on the walls endanger his health further.

“I am cold to my bones,” he says despite the blankets he piles on to cover himself at night. “I’m afraid of going to sleep because I’m not sure I will wake up in the morning.”

M. says he finds it hard to think of anything else when he is cold. “My teeth chatter and my fingers and toes freeze.”

Shmuel, 70, also lives in Jerusalem. He emigrated from Iraq in the 1990s and is estranged from his family.

Shmuel lives on a modest pension provided by the state.

“When I look at my home, I wonder why I have to live like this, it is torture,” Shmuel says.

“Last winter the apartment would flood every time it rained, and I would wake up wet in my bed. I am ashamed of how I live,” he adds.

Shmuel explains that feeling cold is worse than being hungry. “It is humiliating, and I am feeling hopeless, and you cannot live without hope,” he says.

R., 68, is also finding winters too hard to handle. The resident of the central city of Bat-Yam is divorced and estranged from her only son, making winters an emotional challenge.

Her walls and windows are exposed to the elements, and she cannot heat her home. She says that despite the hardships she tries to stay optimistic.

“Elderly live in fear that any kind of rain could flood their homes,” says Uriel Lederberg who heads the ICLG. “And, any wind gust could lower the already low temperatures they are living in.”

Bridges for Peace donates much-needed items to new immigrants who are coming to Israel—often from poor countries—and bring very little with them. Through our Immigrant Welcome Gifts program, we provide blankets to keep them warm, utensils, pots and pans and several other necessities to ensure they have the basic items they need to settle into their new home. Donate now to help us continue to bless the Israeli people.

Posted on November 29, 2019

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in Ynetnews on November 28, 2019. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Michio Nagata/