OPINION: Israel’s security obsession neglects its poverty problem

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OPINION: Israel’s security obsession neglects its poverty problem

By Adina Sakofsky is an Olah Chadasha (a new Israeli immigrant) from London, England, who is currently at Bar Ilan university studying social work.image1

When preparing for Aliyah, one tends to have a wide range of preconceptions about life in Israel. These are usually based on things such as the lack of English manners among the people, the infamously slow and infuriating bureaucracy and the disorganised balagan that often plagues relatively simple events.

However, one of the serious assumptions people make is that the threat Israel’s neighbours pose is the biggest and more or less only danger to society. I too made aliyah  thinking this.

Whilst living in England, whenever Israeli politics was discussed amongst friends or family it was always unanimous that if we had the power to vote in an Israeli election, security would be our main priority.

Therefore on 2nd December 2014, when Likud announced they will be holding general elections on 17 March 2015, I would have assumed that I would be looking to vote for the party whose main concern was security and who looked to designate a significant cut of the budget to defence.

However, this year I started my first year at university studying Social Work and my eyes were opened.

As part of the course we learn about the different populations within the state and the plethora of issues that arise within them.

We are also taught that it is our duty to try and fix these issues that have grown and developed since the State’s creation. One of the matters discussed, which seems to be a catalyst for a lot of the other issues, is the idea that there is a lack of resources to accommodate and satisfy the entire nation.

As a result of this, almost a quarter of the country’s population is poverty stricken.

The statistics that we have been shown have been quite shocking. 21% of people are forced to live on 28NIS a day and 800,000 children that do not know where there next meal is coming from.

Furthermore, only 5% of the population are unemployed which means that the remaining 16% of people below the poverty are working yet still cannot make ends meet.

Minimum wage is now 23.12NIS (shekels) per hour and it is clearly not enough to live at a reasonable standard. Something needs to be done in order to change this, whether it be raising the minimum wage or decreasing the price of standard food products.

Of course the country’s security and defence are of utmost importance but there are other issues which need attention, money and time put in to them.

After 2011’s big summer protests it seemed that the poor economic situation people were finding themselves in was finally going to be addressed.

However, this optimism was short lived and despite promises made in the last election nothing much seems to have changed.

It is scary to think that so many people are fraught with worry that they cannot put food on the table for their children or guarantee a roof over their heads. Something needs to be done to change this. I strongly believe these issues need to be pushed to the top of the priority list; we cannot afford to be a country that allows 21% of its population to live in squalor.

There will no doubt be promises made again as we approach the elections but this time it is imperative that they are not forgotten once a government is formed.

We have a duty to realise how multifaceted our country’s problems are and although we must rise to face the existential threats, we must also ensure that something is done to solve our domestic issues.

An Israel that allows for poverty to flourish is not an Israel that is doing its best to serve its people.

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