Two cases of ongoing poverty in Jerusalem might help illustrate the situation on the ground. These are examples of people who cannot survive, literally, without the support of both the administration - the city's welfare department - and the support of charity organizations. It is cases like these that Dorit Biran, head of the research unit at the welfare department, has in mind when she says that "for the past few years, we have had to renounce modern, advanced social welfare and revert to the days of financial aid." Or in other words, when one cannot secure even basic needs (food, clothing and shelter), he cannot move forward and find ways to improve his situation. Dalia (not her real name) is a mother of four children between the ages of 12 and 22. For years, she suffered abuse from her husband and even had a serious breakdown and was hospitalized. But she never surrendered, and managed to keep her children in her custody, even when, for years, she had no housing of her own. After years of struggling and drifting between friends' and family's houses, with the support of the welfare department she finally obtained public housing. Because of the violent period she went through with her husband, she describes her state of health as "fragile." "I get angry very easily, I have no patience. I suffer from terrible migraines and I get tired very often. In these conditions, it's not surprising that I can't find a steady job," she says. Instead, she works in the black market. "I clean staircases or things like that sometimes - and not on a regular basis," she says. "I have to go and struggle and beg for everything I need - from school supplies for my children or a hot meal, to my dental care. "I try to grasp as much support and help as I can. Wherever I have a chance to obtain something, I go: food baskets, tzedaka funds, clothing, stuff for school, anything. Otherwise I won't survive. "And the worst," she adds, "is that I don't see an opportunity to get out of this [cycle]. If I didn't get the help from the charity associations, through their food baskets and for a while even at the soup kitchens, I would have killed myself a long time ago. "I still think from time to time to end this miserable life, but then I think of my children," she says. Anna made aliya from Russia about 10 years ago with two children (aged two and eight months upon her arrival). With no husband, she says that "making aliya was the only way to assure my kids a better future." In Russia she taught Russian, but because she has struggled to master Hebrew, she cannot work here in her field. Upon arriving in Israel she became very ill, she says, but even though she has since recovered, she has never recovered the strength to work. Still, the children are well taken care of, she says. They go from school to an after-school youth center, where they receive a hot meal, and return home at around 6 p.m. Before the cuts to government allowances in 2000, she could barely get by on her National Insurance Institute supplement. Since then, she has been unable to subsist on her welfare payments. Without the food baskets and the vouchers she receives on a regular basis, she says, she and her children would starve. But the only thing that matters for Anna is that her children stay in school. While she believes that she will never get herself out of poverty, she is hopeful that her children will do better, although she says that sometimes, she loses hope even for them. "We survive only thanks to charity," she says. "It's not much of a life." - P.C.

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