Britain’s Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould will today officially open the first of several social clubs for Holocaust survivors in Israel, thanks to funds that he personally raised with help from members of the Jewish community in Britain.
Gould, who will inaugurate the new club together with his wife, Celia, and Israel’s Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon, has spent the past year raising more than $1.5 million for the project. “This launch is the culmination of our work,” the ambassador told the Jerusalem Post yesterday, explaining that he made public appeals to the British Jewish community via UK media outlets.
The project, which aims to ease the loneliness felt by many Holocaust survivors in Israel, will see six social and cultural centres established – in Givat Olga, the Eshkol region, Kiryat Bialik and Migdal Ha’emek, and two in Bnei Brak. The centres will provide programmes and services for approximately 700 survivors.
Gould said that he was not deterred by the Israeli government’s failure to be an equal financial partner in this venture, pointing out that Israel’s Welfare Ministry has come forward to provide space for the centers as well as services. “When I was ringing people to get support, I was asked about the Israeli government’s involvement in helping survivors and I explained to people that in every country in the world, no matter how developed and rich it might be, there is always the problem of old people being lonely,” he said. “It is a problem across the developed world and governments are not always best placed to tackle it.”
There are an estimated 207,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel.