Letters May 7: ‘Affordable housing’

Affordable housing; Gandhi and nonviolence; Repelling the lot of them?; Praise for Viva...;...and Barbara- plus Israel.

May 6, 2010 12:08
apartment for sale 298

apartment for sale 298. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

‘Affordable housing’

Sir, – As an ordinary citizen struggling to buy a basic apartment in Israel, I  was surprised to read in “The sky’s the limit” (April 30) that Bank of Israel researcher Dr. Yossi Achim sees nothing unsustainable in the average apartment costing about 10 times the annual average income, saying that this multiple has varied from 9.2 in 1973 to 12 in 1996. Perhaps he only meant to answer the article’s central question of whether we are now in a real-estate bubble, but that doesn’t make this horrible number any better.

I happened to read (online) the latest Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, which covers the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and it rates housing as “affordable” if it costs up to three times the average annual income; housing that costs five times average annual income is rated “severely unaffordable.” What on earth would they make of Israel’s rate?

The fact is, for most of us ordinary folk, the question of whether or not we are in a real-estate bubble is an academic side issue. What is important is that housing prices here in Israel have been too high for decades and, even with planned future developments, don’t seem likely ever to come down enough to be regarded as truly “affordable.”

    Ra’anana (renting)

Gandhi and nonviolence

Sir, – I was mystified to read the savage attack on Mahatma Gandhi (“Impelled by filial piety,” April 30), not least because it appeared at the end of a week’s stay during which Gandhi had been much on my mind and those of my Israeli hosts. In that week, I had found arresting evidence of Gandhi’s intimate and mutually beneficial relations with Jews in South Africa, and had the honor of participating in a panel, at the University of Haifa, with Israeli scholars who spoke of Gandhi’s enduring legacy across Asia and the world.

It may indeed be that methods of nonviolent protest would not have succeeded against the Nazis. But they worked against the British Raj, against the American government (as the black civil rights struggle demonstrated), and even against communism (as Solidarity and Charter 77 showed).

Gandhi is relevant to our times in other respects as well – in his insistence on interfaith harmony, his precocious concern for environmental sustainability, and the transparent openness of his personal and political life. In light of these (and other) contributions, it is hard to see how Sarah Honig’s claim that Gandhi was “(self-)righteous” and marked by “chilling callousness” can be sustained.

As an outsider, I would not presume to comment on the situation of Palestinians in Israel, the ostensible subject of Honig’s article. But reading her denunciation of nonviolence, Palestinians might conclude that to gain their civil rights, they have no option but to take to violent methods – surely an outcome that cannot be welcomed by Israelis.

    Bangalore, India

Repelling the lot of them?

Sir, – Julie Burchill feels “repelled by” and “uninvolved” in the British general election and proceeds to censure each political party in turn (“Repelled by the lot of them,” April 30).

She doesn’t want to vote Labor any more because of their “cozying up to the filthy rich” and because they are responsible for the open-door policy to Polish immigrants. She should know that Poles are allowed to work in Britain because Poland joined the European Union. This is a club that Britain joined over 40 years ago, and like it or not, it has to obey its rules. It is not a decision made by any British government of whatever stripe.

She adds that the Labor party has given money to “organizations which may [my italics] support extremism.” I presume she carefully chose the word “may” because she has no evidence to support this assertion.

It was okay to vote for the Tories when their cabinet contained many Jews, but not now that it contains “in-bred upper class twits.”

Obviously the Lib Dems are completely anti Israel, so how come the party contains a group called Liberal Friends of Israel?

And so to the Green Party, composed of dim, rich Jews who are “dewy eyed about the good old days.” From which part of the Green Party manifesto does she glean this information?

But the worst is yet to come. She then makes use of the well-known Reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy to drive her point home: By stating that the Nazi party believed in Green principles, Burchill proves they must be disregarded because they cannot be legitimate. Hitler was a vegetarian who loved dogs. What does that tell us about vegetarians and/or dog-lovers?


Praise for Viva...

Sir, – I just wanted to write and express my joy at reading Viva Hammer’s articles (“Mother tongue,” April 30). They are a real expression of healthy living and wonderful, warm ideas. Thank you for allowing her to share her experiences with us.


...and Barbara – plus Israel

Sir, – I am always impressed by Barbara Sofer’s articles. She always brings out the human side of a story. This week’s column, “Favorite 62 plus one to grow on new reasons I love Israel” (April 30), was especially of interest to me, since one of the reasons she offered (No. 34) was my mother, Clara Hammer, known as the Chicken Lady.

While my mother provided chickens for the Shabbat tables of hundreds of families for over 30 years, she also helped many needy with shoes, clothing, furniture, gowns for brides, and much more.

Another thing that had direct meaning for me was the item about how years ago, people coming from America would bring disposable diapers (No. 48). When I was still living in America, I had to bring diapers for my ill granddaughter, who was living in Israel.

Keep writing and proving your love of Israel, and we will keep reading.


Sir, – If I could have my wish for the next 62-plus-one years of our wondrous State of Israel, it would be that there be more first-class media writers like Barbara Sofer, whose articles about the “Human Spirit” elevate my particular spirit amid all the gloom and doom prophesied for our future. There is so much good out here, but it seems that the worse the news, the higher the ratings for the newspaper.

And thank you, Barbara, for your No. 52 favorite – our Hesder Yeshiva in Kiryat Shmona.

Overseas administrator and liaison officer
Yeshivat Hesder, Kiryat Shmona

Sir, – I always enjoy reading Barbara Sofer’s annual article enumerating the reasons she loves Israel, and empathize with each reason (like the one about taxi drivers filling you in on all the news you’ve missed while on your ride back home from the airport after a trip abroad). I’d like to add a few more:

1) Here, Memorial Day is really a day for remembering those who have fallen, either in the Holocaust or in defending Israel, and not a day for “white sales” like in some countries.

2) People really do stop, get out of their cars, no matter where they are, and stand in silent tribute as the siren sounds on Holocaust Remembrance Day and Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers.

3) On these days, the radio is filled with the most heart-wrenching personal stories and the most beautiful music.

4) The transition from Remembrance Day to Independence Day, from sadness to joy, is simply indescribable.

5) There is always a pick-up minyan available at the Western Wall, any time, day or night, any day of the week.

6) During the High Holy Days, one can always hear the Sephardi chanting of “Hatanu Lefanecha” (we have sinned before you) at the Kotel – and they’re so upbeat!

7) While hiking on an unmarked trail by a fruit grove, the farmer will pop out and start telling you about his fruit trees and give you some fruit samples.

I’m sure I can think of many more.

    Zichron Ya’acov

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