Upcoming Events

  • No upcoming events available



רשת אינדימדיה העולמית

  • www.indymedia.org

Hirsh Goodman: Beggars in the Promised Land

גרסת להדפסהגרסת להדפסהSend by emailSend by emailPDF versionPDF version

Most of us can feel the pinch. This Government’s fiscal policies have taken their toll on the middle class. Blue-collar workers have felt it even worse.

Particularly badly hit are the poor, the elderly, the disabled, those with large families, the unemployed and single parents. Health costs have gone up, social security payments from the state have gone down, education -- supposed to be free -- has become expensive, even exorbitant, and its levels so low that parents with any expectations from their children have to spend heavily on enrichment.

Perhaps most indicative of what has happened in Israel slowly but surely over these past few years was a three-hour telethon on Channel Two, the commercial channel, broadcast on September 13. The event, with the country’s top stars performing voluntarily, was not to raise money and meals for genocide victims in Sudan or refugees in Rwanda, but Israel’s new poor: local government workers who have not received their salaries for six months or more, and are now destitute and in debt; the 11 percent of the population who are unemployed, cannot pay their mortgages, send their children to summer camp or even afford a decent meal; the frail and elderly who have come to rely on soup kitchens; and large families, something once encouraged by the state, who now depend on handouts from the many charities -- like Latet, the organization behind the September telethon -- that have sprung up over the past two years.

We all understand that the country has been through four years of war and that this coincided with the bursting of the high-tech bubble, and that both both events were devastating for the Israeli economy. But how many hundreds of millions of shekels have been spent on moving the security barrier from point A to point B then to C because of ever-changing security, legal and international considerations? How many millions have been spent on alternately evicting and guarding settlers who have grabbed hilltops in the West Bank? On the roads, water towers, security fences and mobile homes that are first put up on these hilltops, then dismantled and then replaced? The cost of disengagement will be high enough, but how much more will be spent on enforcing the government’s decision to evacuate Gaza -- not only in compensation for those who will be leaving but also in trying to control those trying to prevent the disengagement? Where on earth did the government find over 150 million shekels suddenly for National Religious Party yeshivahs when it needed the NRP’s votes to push the appointment of two new ministers through the Knesset?

There is no hunger in Israel and no endemic malnutrition. People are not starving to death in the streets and emaciated corpses are not being found in the parks. But there is very deep poverty, often among those who deserve it least: those of the founding generation without independent means who are denied the state geriatric care they deserve; the new immigrants we beckoned to these shores with promises of a better future; people prepared to work hard but who can’t find work; the rank-and-file of this nation, families who serve in the army and dutifully paid their taxes all their working lives only to be turned into beggars in the Promised Land.

Once a visitor to Israel asked Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu how he has had the "guts" to take the politically unpopular moves he made in cutting social subsidies. He replied that the backbone of Likud support came from small and medium-sized businesses and that was where his backing lay. What he didn’t say, but implied, was that the people going through the scrap heaps after the market closes were not among his voters.

The answer was smart, practical and remarkably honest. It was also insensitive, cynical and brutal. His policies, he was saying, were a means to an end -- his staying in power -- not serving the very real problems of a troubled nation.

Israel has been through tough times before. But they were shared by the nation as a whole. Now, it seems, there are those who donate to telethons and those who receive from them, while the government throws away hundreds of millions on folly and the country continues to lose its soul.

The prime minister, Ariel Sharon, said in his Rosh Hashanah greeting to the Likud Central Committee (or those few members who saw fit to come) that we have to proceed with the disengagement from Gaza and that the current social situation was no longer tenable, that things must change. My wish for the New Year, other than health and happiness for all of you, is that his speech goes from his lips to God’s ear.


Random Image

The Functions of an Essay

שלב תכנים

שלב תוכן Features

שלב תוכן Newswire