One of the hardest things to do as a writer, is to write what you are passionate about. At some point, it is inevitable that you will hit a block of some kind. I love Israel. I love the politics, the geopolitics, the concept of Aliyah and the practicality of making it work for those Olim who merit to make it to the Promised Land. I hope to merit the same thing one day.
Israel has always been the exception, not the rule. Where a socialist doctrine is still somewhat viable, within the boundaries of a capital market. Its a fascinating dichotomy that, despite some chaos, and the abject failure of the Socialist and the Communist leanings of the founding fathers of the modern State of Israel, still kind of works. I say kind of with a heavy heart, however. Who wouldn't want to see the "utopia?" Who wouldn't want to see everyone fed, clothed, healthy, educated? You would have to be heartless to say otherwise. This coming from, what my friends and family can only describe as a born and bred Conservative. One that would make Rush Limbaugh look like John Kerry.
Israel's marriage of failed ideals and practical solutions has made it into the world leader in technology development, research and development, medical drug development and many others. Yet, as I saw in an article online,
"In 2006, it was reported that approximately 3,000 Israelis are known to be homeless. According to the Social Affairs Ministry, 70% of homeless people are childless Soviet immigrants and alcoholics, while the remaining 30% are either homeless due to their economic situation, or were mentally unable to live in a home due to irritation with being surrounded by walls and ceilings. The survey also found that every year, 2,000 families are evicted from their apartments following their inability to repay mortgage payments."
Whats frustrating to me is that we, and I use we to include Jews in and out of Israel, help. We help a lot. We still haven't found a way to solve this problem of poverty and homelessness in our home land. I am aware it is easier said then done. I am aware there are people who are incapable. I do not advocate for the State or individuals to bankroll people, making the poor and the homeless into nothing more than a drain on the collective society and pockets.
There is an old quote, please forgive me for not remembering exactly where it comes from. "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime."
All of this went through my head the other day, as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed, and saw a picture of a religious poverty stricken man in Israel, picking up food from the floor. The poster said it was a man that was scraping together items for the Sabbath. Whether its true or not is moot. The image sticks in my head. I sat quiet for a while, really trying to contemplate what this picture seems to say, and as I watched people comment, I was both horrified and pleased at the responses I saw. The callousness at some of the comments were not in line with Torah. The Torah would command us to make sure this fellow Jew has what they need. Its all well and good to establish soup kitchens and gemachs and charities to help the poverty stricken. The other night, as I was driving home from work, I even heard Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, sniffle as he asked us to send in $20 to help feed a Jew two meals on the Sabbath.
This is not what they need. This is not in line with the Torah. This is not in line with humanity. Human dignity is an extremely important thing. So much so that should a wealthy man lose everything, the community should help him to continue to live a lavish lifestyle so that he shouldn't feel the pain of losing everything until he regains his business.
One comment on this picture really hit me. The wording I didn't care for, but the general idea is great.
"Bring back working Kibbutzim without politics.Great places for poor, homeless, widowed, etc. Builds character and sense of belonging."
There was a point, after I was first married, where I lost my job and couldn't find one for a long time. The sense of displacement and despair was unbearable. I felt useless. I didn't want to pray or learn. I didn't want to speak to my wife. My despair overtook me. Thank G-d for a local business owner, who knew me from Yeshiva and the neighborhood. When he found out that I didn't have a job, he called me personally to come and work for him. Many years later, the tremendous amount of HaKaras HaTov I have towards him, I still can't thank him enough. He didn't pay me to pay my bills. He gave me my life back. He gave me a sense of purpose. And I worked. I was so scared of getting back into that "funk" that when Superstorm Sandy left, I sent my wife and toddler to her family in Baltimore to be warm and have power, and I went to work. To prove to this generous man that he hired a guy who has drive and to prove to myself that I was not the entitled fool that I once was.
I brought up an extremely personal story for a reason. It is time to stop and rethink our lives. Who we give charity to. Who do we help.
The previous quote is amazing. It doesn't have to be a Socialist's dream. It could be one of Capitalism. Capitalism with a heart. The exception to the rule. Why can't we establish a Kibbutz, so to speak, where people work to live there? They can be trained to produce goods or offer services. They can, when they feel ready, decide to stay on the Kibbutz and continue making money and living with dignity, or try to venture outside of the Kibbutz. There should always be a place for our brothers and sisters to turn to in times of need. There were even A'rei Miklat, cities of refuge, when someone accidentally murdered someone. Is a fellow Jew really less worthy of the same refuge?
This could be a pride and joy for the Jewish people. Obviously, this is merely an idea, details haven't been worked out, but there are so many ways to monetize a venture like this that these could pop up all over Israel, improving the quality of life for thousands, if not tens of thousands of Israelis. Something like this could be a feather in the cap of certain wealthy individuals as well, who can give their charity to schools, hospitals, Hatzalah, etc, as opposed to paying the way for someone.
We could really be the Or L'Goyim, the Light unto Nations, with ideas like this. Poverty is a worldwide epidemic. It is not easily solved, but this could be the beginning of something really beautiful.