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Medical Board: Obstacle on Way to Municipal Home

Back In the 1950s and 60s the «Voice of Israel» was a voice of freedom in a modest apartment in the city of Odessa. It was difficult for that voice to make its way through the Soviet air, it was difficult for that small country in the Middle East to create itself building a world where Lisa and her parents would not be excluded. That was the belief of a common Jewish family, one of the thousands of Soviet Jews’ families. 

Many years later, in 1994, Lisa managed to persuade her mother to move to a new country — Israel (elderly people are very conservative and hate changing routine).

Her Mom felt at home surprisingly fast: there was a club for the elderly (they had never seen such a thing in Odessa), the neighbors turned out to be friendly, and the nature was extraordinarily lush and rich even from a southerner’s point of view.

Where are we going to live?

After the original enthusiasm worn out, the family faced some real-world problems. The most important thing was housing! Under the law, Lisa and her mother were entitled to a municipal apartment. Immediately after the repatriation, Lisa tried to get in a waiting list.

But there were difficulties: in this case, both women had to be in the age of retirement, and Lisa was several years younger than necessary.

“We’ll wait,” Lisa and Mom decided, Soviet women got used to waiting. They waited and eventually we included into the list. During that period they lived in a rented apartment, paying for it a lion share of their income, and hoped that sooner or later they will get a home their own. They were ready to be patient.

And here it was, long-awaited! At the end of 2014, they received an invitation to look at the apartment in one of the social housing complexes in the city of Rishon Lezion. Lisa went their alone seeing no sense in taking her elderly Mom to the other side of the city. She liked their would-be home, a light, not too spacious, but cozy apartment perfect for two elderly women.

“Will your mother look at the apartment?” an official suddenly asked being already at the exit.

“What for? I can tell her everything,” Lisa answered confidently. “Bu she certainly will come to sign the contract!”

Mom was overexcited. The family saw no obstacles ahead even though to get a municipal apartment they had to provide their doctor’s letter confirming that both of them are capable to care for themselves. The doctor who had watched them both for many years willingly gave the letter saying that Lisa’s Mom, in her elderly age, was quite active and completely independent.

Medical board pronounces sentence

Suddenly, when Lisa and her Mom were already preparing for the move, the decision of the medical board came: not eligible. Not independent. Cannot live in municipal housing.

On what grounds did the board, having never seen the Mom, make the decision?

How is it possible to work on the principle: we only help the healthy? It is obvious that a crippled person cannot live in such a house, but that dwelling is vital for people who foresee impending helplessness!

It is impossible to understand the mode of functioning of the medical boards pronouncing the sentence in absentia on unknown grounds.

And why does the board meet after an elderly repatriate learned that their turn came and has already seen the apartment where they are going to live? Such a decision of the board is often a terrible blow for an elderly person. Unfortunately, that was Lisa's Mom’s case.

Bureaucrats broke the woman who survived the Holocaust. A sudden stroke. A hospital. And there, as soon as Mom regained the ability to speak,conversations going around the circle returning to one topic: “Where we are going to live?” Mom has found her last apartment in the cemetery of Rishon Lezion — out of turn.

In the memory of her mother, Lisa did not give up. It became the meaning of her life to prove the truth and defend the cause of justice. With support of Boris Kogan, chairman of the Tenants’ Association, and Vlad Kapustin, the head of the human rights organization Our Right Lisa managed to obtain justice. But she paid a very heavy price.

What can we do?

NGO «Magen Mishpacha» is sure: we must deal with the problem of medical boards. Our goal is to ensure that a medical board does not turn into a punitive institution, and its decision — into a death sentence.

If you, your family and friends wait for such a board, if you have already received its decision and do not agree with it, please contact our Hotline «Right to Defense»: 0722 414 111 or 0546 874 478.

We see our role not only in creating positive precedents in this field, but also in raising the legal literacy of our repatriates: after all, only one who knows his or her rights can enjoy them.

Zoya-Hava Barzakh


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