Cottage cheese housing

As the song goes, ‘the rich get rich and the poor have children.’ In contrast to Israel’s bygone socialist era, today the rich are buying luxury cottages while the poor can’t even afford the luxury of cottage cheese.

Cottage industry cartoon 521 (photo credit: Menachem Jerenberg)
Cottage industry cartoon 521
(photo credit: Menachem Jerenberg)
There has been a lot of chatter both by pundits on the radio and by us common folk as we ride buses and taxis comparing the cottage cheese boycott with the sit-in for affordable housing. However, no one seems to have noticed that one word can sum up the root cause of both the rise in the price of dairy products and the fact that an affordable apartment is beyond the dreams not only of students and young couples but also of older folk on a fixed pension that is gradually shrinking.
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That word is greed.
The greed of companies looking to maximize their profits and the bonuses paid to their CEOs and the greed of property developers and contractors.
Boycotting cottage cheese reaps rewards because in addition to having a short shelf-life, dairy products are not considered an absolute necessity and can either be substituted or avoided altogether. However, in spite of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s call to curb the bureaucracy and free up more land for building, boycotting the property market is still not a realistic option.
When my grandparents came to the UK as poor immigrants they found a home in what were colloquially called “the buildings.” These were dark, cramped and very basic accommodations, but they nevertheless provided four walls and a roof for those who could not afford anything better. The buildings were named thus after the trusts that financed them; the Guinness buildings, the Peabody buildings, etc.
The Guinness family, for example, may have had questionable politics and morals, but they still invested part of the considerable fortune they made from brewing into a trust fund that went into financing the blocks of apartments that were named for the family.
Here in Israel there are no “buildings.” Public housing as such no longer seems to exist. Instead we have oligarchs who invest their capital in building grandiose high rise apartments for what a late friend once aptly described as homeless millionaires - those who spend more time in one of their other residences abroad.
Take for example, the infamous Holyland project in Jerusalem – built by the wealthy for the wealthy. Holyland made a great deal of money for its architects and contractors, but only afforded a very modest wage for those who actually labored on the site. That land could and should have been used for affordable and decent housing which instead of being an eyesore and a scar on the Jerusalem skyline, could and should have been designed in such a way as to promote both the capital’s aesthetics and social conscience.
But while the rich may share the blame for the current housing crisis, we cannot excuse those at the top. Where are our bus riding, shopping schlepping Golda Meyers? Where are our modest dwelling Menachem Begins? In short, where the leaders who remember what it means to scrape up enough money to provide a pot of cottage cheese or who make do with a modest home? Instead we have penthouse millionaires who are completely out of touch with the cares and woes of the proletariat they purport to support.
Even if more land is made available can we expect to see Strauss-funded buildings or Tnuva buildings being erected? Somehow I doubt it.
But if by some miracle this were to happen, perhaps the knowledge that some of the profits were being accrued for the general good would mean less people would begrudge spending a few extra shekels on cottage cheese. 
The writer made aliyah in 1979 from the UK and has lived in Jerusalem for the past 21 years.