Israel’s Hidden Security Threat
The number one security threat to Israeli Holocaust Survivors is not terrorism.
The number one threat is not covered in the news and isn’t talked about on Facebook.
20% of Israeli Holocaust Survivors are under nourished.
Now you might be thinking ‘Ray that is unfortunate but Hamas has rockets, Iran has a nuclear program, those must be more dangerous problems.’
And you would be right but only to a point.
Military threats are potential problems but hunger is very real and immediately present in their lives.
I want you to picture the average the Holocaust Survivor helped by Leket Israel. A frail woman in her late 80s, living in a tiny apartment in Jerusalem. She turns on the news and learns about the latest threats from Iran. Her brows furrow in concern as her heart beats a bit faster. The stress makes her stomach grumble and she lifts her little body out of her coach to her fridge.
But finds little except the spoiling remains of yesterday’s food from the local soup kitchen, some milk and bits of mustard and mayonnaise.
What do you believe she thinks the greater threat to her is? Terrorism and war, or hunger?
The really bad news for her though is not the lack of nutrition, but how that lack hurts other parts of her life.
How did Hunger Cause the Holocaust Paradox?
Holocaust survivors live longer than the average Israeli or American.
Its called the “Holocaust Paradox” and it means Holocaust survivors live about seven years longer than others. (Times of Israel)
Scientists believe it is a combination of genetics and learning to survive in abhorrent conditions.
A key part of this is nutrition. We know that the ways we treat food growing up, what foods we like and dislike, the portions we eat, and emotional eating is often learned as a child and stays with us while we age.
When these children grew up they kept one of these on hand, a ration card for Jews in the ghetto.
This card would specify what they were permitted to eat. The Germans promised ‘livable conditions’ in the ghettos but the reality was far different. The diet in the ghetto was only 800 calories per day for a Polish Jew, one third of that given to Germans. Imagine being a Jewish mother going to a store with your child’s card, a child increasingly lonesome, cold and scared, only to return with two peanut butter sandwiches and a tea spoon of cheese, and trying to make that last them the whole day.
Those children learned to survive on very little, now in their old age they have a different kind of ration card.
Which would You Sacrifice, Food or Medicine?
Please enter the shoes of an Israeli Holocaust Survivor one more time.
You have just received your monthly government support, but like 25% of Israeli Holocaust Survivors you are still under the poverty line (Reuters). It is your only income but you are not upset. Israel needs to spend far more on defence than other countries. You understand the country needs to make sacrifices.
But the question makes your belly ache. What are you going to have to sacrifice?
Imagine your vision has been failing, is it worth going without medication a few days this week to pay for new glasses?
If the ache in your stomach gets worse should you pay the expense of treatment if it means you won’t be able to afford food?
I wish I could say I was exaggerating. I wish I was lying to you about the choices you would have to make.
But these Survivors must make terrible sacrifices. According to the Daily Mail,
- One in three Holocaust survivors have had to go at least one day without food in the last year
- .One in four have had to go without vital medication
- .One in three have not been able to heat their home in the winter months.
Here is the tragic truth,
To be a Holocaust Survivor in Israel today means to make the same gut wrenching sacrifices they needed to make in the ghettos as children.
Chilling Ways Hunger Worsens Illnesses
Suppose you made the decision to skip a few meals to afford vital medicines. It seems like a good decision but only at first.
You see these Survivors are not just dealing with illness.
They are dealing with childhood trauma.
The privations in childhood I mentioned earlier have come back to haunt them now in old age.
The World Health Organization recommends elderly adults eat balanced meals now more than ever.
Vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, protein and antioxidants are all needed to maintain a strong immune system. The loss of these foods can weaken their immunity, making it harder to fight off infection.
In this time of isolation proper nutrition also impacts their mental health. Carbohydrates, tryptophane, vitamin B12, folate, thiamine and iron are all scientifically proven to impact your mood.
Holocaust survivors are 10% more likely to have diabetes than the general population. The emotional trauma and food scarcity suffered as children make it hard for them to regulate their diet.
They are 53.4% more likely to have dementia. 45% of those diagnosed with dementia experience clinically significant weight loss in the first year. Under nutrition is also the number one driver of hospital visits for those with illness because it weakens their immunity, increases lethargy and adds to their sense of confusion and anxiety about their health and the world around them.