Take care of our own poor first

There are a significant number of Israelis who live below the poverty line; whole families suffering from a lack of work opportunities.

February 8, 2014 22:03
3 minute read.
Homeless man on Jerusalem's Jaffa Street.

Homeless man 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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A few years ago my family and I made aliya from South Africa, driven from the country by the high crime rate as well as anti-Semitism.

Israel opened its doors after a four-year conversion process. The journey was long and unpredictable and each step of the way there were many obstacles.

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Luckily we were given the opportunity to be part of the Jewish state.

Having arrived in the country our problems were not yet over. Every aliya has its challenges; language barriers, lack of job opportunities, no family or connections, and this led to financial difficulties.

And yet, after all this, Israel is still home; a country for Jewish asylum, offering us a better quality of life.

Israel opened her doors for us, and today she also opens her doors to refugees from Africa, all clamoring for asylum.

The situation in their native countries is pitiable and so far from ours that it is not worth comparing, but the question still stands: how far should we be going to help them, and to what extent can we as a nation hold ourselves accountable for their condition? Yes, they come from a war-torn country, and yes, their situation is difficult and traumatic. However, once they are allowed entry into our country we must be held responsible for them, but at what cost? And why are they being offered asylum so quickly while many Jewish olim are turned away? By comparing the two, you can definitely come to many different conclusions.

But a direct comparison is an injustice to both parties. However, Israel’s message remains clear to both: Israel is a place of asylum where you can make a living and be sheltered.

Today refugees know they can cross the border, demand rights and be granted financial aid, but more significantly refugees are offered employment in Israel, work opportunities that many other disadvantaged citizens so desperately need.

These infiltrators are work seekers, looking for an easy payday on their way to Europe or the US. They find work which pays them under the table. So where is the Israeli government when it comes to controlling the employment of illegal immigrants, in a society where many Israeli citizens lack work and struggle to feed their families? Israel has become an human resources company for work-seeking illegal immigrants and the message is clear to them.

There are a significant number of Israelis who live below the poverty line; whole families suffering from a lack of work opportunities.

Alongside the displacement of disadvantaged Israelis, these illegal job migrants cause another set of problems: They bring with them health risks, such as tuberculosis, which we as a developed nation have long since eradicated.

Beyond these health issues, it is no surprise that over the past seven years the crime rate has risen in low-income neighborhoods that these work seekers populate. Coming from a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world, this is something I hoped to avoid in Israel, a life so many South African immigrants left behind. With this in our present, what will we see in the future? As a Jewish immigrant from a thirdworld country, I understand the Jewish attitude of caring displayed towards these so-called refugees. The Jewish nation has seen terrible times and suffered many historical tragedies and we cannot forget where we came from. However, we cannot ignore Israel’s current economic challenges. We fought long and hard for our own independence, to have a state of our own to protect and provide for our own people and most importantly we must preserve the Jewish state.

As an Israeli citizen, I question why our country turns a blind eye to these disturbing issues. Why is the country up in arms about providing for refugees when there are so many Jewish and Arab citizens living in poverty, without work? Can Israel afford to babysit work-seekers who in the long run drain our economy? As the Maimonides states: first take care of your own poor.

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