Immigrant Mothers Continuing Their Hunger Strike over Housing

About half a dozen single mothers, all immigrants from the former Soviet Union, are continuing a hunger strike here for more affordable housing, as the government scrambles to satisfy their concerns.

The women, who are conducting the hunger strike in the Rose Garden opposite the Knesset, are demanding more affordable mortgages.

With the mortgages at the current rate, “we can’t afford to eat,” Luba Inbinder said on behalf of Aliyah ’90, one of the single-parent organizations sponsoring the protest.

A group of about a dozen other hunger strikers literally folded their tent and left the park earlier this week. They were advised by WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, which had provided the tent, that the strike had accomplished all it could.

The strike brought a meeting with Immigrant Absorption Minister Yair Tsaban and Housing Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who pledged to deal immediately with the most urgent cases and to press their cause with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

In fact, Rabin held a meeting in his office Wednesday to discuss the hunger strikers’ concerns. Also present were Tsaban, Ben-Eliezer, Finance Minister Avraham Shohat and Ora Namir, the minister of labor and social affairs.

According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, the ministers offered proposals to ease the housing crisis for all singleparent families, not just new immigrants.

While no proposals were adopted, another meeting was scheduled for Sunday.

Meanwhile, the women on strike are not taking chances. “We need results,” said Inbinder.

“We are here until the end,” said Ilana Karlin, head of the northern chapter of Imcha, another organization for single-parent families. “We have no choice,” she said.

WANT MORE FAVORABLE REPAYMENT TERMS

The women want the mortgage raised from 120,000 to 190,000 shekels, or from roughly $43,000 to $68,000. They also want more favorable terms for repayment that are adjusted for income, and the elimination of requirements for guarantors.

Meanwhile, the Absorption Ministry spokesman said Tsaban has long been concerned with the special problems of single-parent families and has been working on proposals to remedy them.

With the absorption portfolio, however, Tsaban has a broader fight on his hands.

In a meeting Wednesday with Finance Minister Shohat on the 1994 budget, Tsaban heatedly protested the failure to increase the absorption allocation, this year at 1.2 billion shekels ($430,000), by another 200 million shekels ($70,000).

“The Treasury’s posture toward absorption and immigration is very weak,” Tsaban reportedly said on his way out of the meeting.

“This is no way to achieve the revolution in absorption that will encourage greater immigration from the” former Soviet Union.

Tsaban is under fire lately for not wielding enough political clout to win battles on behalf of the new immigrants. His latest defeat was Shohat’s recent decision to return to the Treasury 650 million shekels ($230,000) in reserve funds for immigrant absorption.

The Treasury’s position is that the money was earmarked for a surplus of immigrants that did not materialize.

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