In 2001, I moved to Israel with my parents and sister.
As a 15-year-old
South African who had encountered violence firsthand, I was excited to arrive in
the Promised Land. The shaliach guaranteed us that our every need would be met.
Family friends living in Israel assured us that it was a great move, a wonderful
decision and the best possible choice. To this day, I do not regret coming, but
I’m beginning to doubt that I will be able to stay.
A decade has passed
since we arrived on that hot June morning, and in that decade I have matured
from an excited teenager with little responsibility into a working adult who is
starting to build a life and plan for the future.
With that change, the
reality has dawned on me: Israel ain’t what it used to be.
or it’s not what was promised to us it would be.
This land that we call
home needs to be more than a mere ideological vision; I need to be able to
afford to live here.
I read the news every day and see the prices of
everything, from gas to property to cottage cheese, increase. I also notice that
the average salary is not moving in the same direction, and I’m beginning to
In January, I will be married.
I will be looking for a
place to build a life with my wife, and have children.
circumstances, this is impossible.
Yes, I can get married. Yes, I can
have children. But I will not have a home. Every month, I will pay someone for a
box in which I can store my life. And if I remain “average,” I will never have
my own home.
THERE ARE countless excuses for the high cost of living in
Israel: “It’s the price we pay for being safe”; “There is a low supply of
housing and a high demand”; “It’s a free market, which is a good
I have heard this over and over, yet it still makes no sense to
There is no lack of supply; there is a lack of affordable
Why? Because land owners are greedy and investors have no
In this free market, there is no reason for a land
owner to sell to the average Israeli for half of what he can get from a foreign
investor. I look outside my window at work and see a piece of land that could
house thousands of people, but instead sits empty and fenced off. Meanwhile, the
investor knows that real estate is a sure bet and that prices are being driven
up, so they can buy low and sell high in a relatively short time And with all
this, the average Israeli cannot afford to live in an average
Ten years ago, the people pushing hardest for me to come to
Israel were the Zionist Federation and the Jewish Agency, despite their
knowledge that many olim would not learn fluent Hebrew, and that many would be
unemployed for months or even years. Many immigrants do not survive in their
professions due to over-saturation, protektsia (connections), or language
issues. Many immigrant children drop out of school, develop behavioral problems
and, due to the elitist nature of the education system, may not get a
university- level education. And still, the recommendation from the shaliach is
the same: “Come home to Israel.”
DESPITE THIS scary reality (and a few
bumps in the road), I learned the language, finished high school and university,
and have a full-time job where I earn an above-average salary. Yet I look at the
housing prices every day, and shake my head in disbelief. It will take me 30
years to buy a property if I put a third of my salary into it. If I can get a
30-year mortgage, the amount of money I lose on interest will be huge. And I’m
in a relatively good position for a first-generation Israeli.
What about those
who didn’t beat the odds? My other option is to move out of the center of the
country. That seems to be the go-to solution of the fat cats: “Stop being a
spoiled brat who wants to party in Tel Aviv.” Well, that’s all fine and good,
but we may find that salaries drop along with real estate prices as we reach the
periphery. Furthermore, the transportation infrastructure leaves much to be
desired. I can still work in the center and commute 90 minutes each way; when my
kids are old enough, I’m sure they will understand why they never saw their
At the moment, however, living further away is not an option, so what is
the average oleh to do? For Israel to survive and flourish as a Jewish,
democratic society, aliya remains imperative; Israel must become home to more
The Jewish Agency is committed to ensuring the future of a
committed, global Jewish people with a strong Israel at its heart.
olim to survive, affordable housing remains imperative. The Jewish Agency must
accept a certain level of responsibility for helping. This can be done through
informing them about the realities of housing in this country, and by lobbying
for harsher measures against those who seek to make property prices soar for
their own personal gain.
I call on the Jewish Agency to get involved in
the housing crisis and create feasible solutions for the people who gave up
everything to be here. Zionism will not pay the bills or put food on my table,
and it definitely won’t provide me with the capital I need to house my family in
the land that is supposedly my home. If you ask me to choose between Zionism and
the well-being of my family, I will choose my family. They are my
Keeping me here is yours.The writer blogs at