Three news items over the last two weeks highlight the degree to which real problems, like poverty and discrimination, are often wrongly exaggerated by lumping several unrelated issues together. The well-meaning may hope to draw more attention to these problems by magnifying them; the malicious simply seek to make Israel look worse. But regardless of the motive, it’s deeply counterproductive.
Take, for instance, a Central Bureau of Statistics survey published last week which found that 14.5 percent of adult Israelis subjectively felt poor last year. That’s significantly less than the official poverty rate – 19.4% of families and 23.5% of individuals, the highest in the Western world.
The main reason for this discrepancy is the haredim. Only 22% of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) respondents told the CBS they felt poor, despite an official haredi poverty rate approaching 60%, and only 15% of respondents in predominantly haredi Bnei Brak, one of Israel’s poorest cities. That’s because their poverty results from a lifestyle choice that many deem worth the financial sacrifice.