December 25: Israelis and poverty

The findings of the NGO Latet are either the result of naiveté or an effort at self-aggrandizement.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israelis and poverty
Sir, – The findings of the NGO Latet (“Latet report: 1 in 3 Israeli children lives in poverty,” December 23) are either the result of naiveté or an effort at self-aggrandizement.
Those families that suffer because of genuine hardship, such as deceased or mentally/ physically damaged parents, should receive all the help they deserve. Yet one wonders whether these represent a majority of those seeking public assistance, for in both the Jewish and Arab sectors there is no shortage of households headed by able-bodied men who either refuse to work or work off the books yet produce a brand new child every 15 months.
In addition to sponging off the taxpayer, these families are exempt from municipal taxes, get free medical services, enjoy extra handouts for their many children, tap into myriad social welfare NGOs like Latet (which often provide total food provisions for the entire month) and have access to non-profit supermarkets, where all food and household staples are available below market price.
The people who benefit most from this are not exactly those who sing Hatikva and stand in silence when we remember those who sacrificed their lives for our country. Of course, our government is aware of this yet refuses to undertake a meaningful screening of those who have their hands in the till because in many cases these are sacred cows with powerful political representation.
A report like this besmirches all of Israel and makes us look like a banana republic, with only the very rich and the very poor.
Sir, – Your frontpage report on poverty findings by Latet is lacking in its analysis.
There is a large group of Israelis who have decided to remain poor. I refer to the ultra-religious who study all day and do not earn money to support their families. These people constitute a large number of the country’s families and children who are considered poor, but are not mentioned as a separate group.
The responsibility for their poverty lies not with the government, but with the rabbis and yeshiva heads who do not encourage students to provide properly for their families, encouraging them instead to raise poor children dependent on others.
Rishon Lezion
Sir, – The depressing Post article comes before elections for a new Knesset. It follows a report by the National Insurance Institute stating that 1.6 million people, including 756,000 children, are living under the poverty line.
One week later, Latet increases the estimates to 2.5 million, including 932,000 children.
These figures would generate a picture of Israeli children with broomstick legs and bloated bellies, which certainly is not what we see wherever we travel in this land. Cooked cereals, standard bread, seasonal fruits and vegetables are available even within a strict budget.
Leket and the tens of other, smaller organizations distributing food and meals to the elderly or chronically ill with little income certainly do blessed charitable work. However, in raising donations to continue their work by using specious statistics on Israeli children, they do great damage.
This description of Israel discourages aliya. It also whets the attack appetite of enemies by showing we are a weak nation internally.
Ramat Gan
Sir, – When I made aliya from Canada in 1968, my first Shabbat was in Tel Aviv. When walking near the old bus station, what did I see? A homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk. I was astonished. I could not believe it.
That was almost 50 years ago, so all governments since then are to blame, not just the current government.
One of the main problems, if not the main one, is the price of housing. The government must reduce the price of land and start building homes that are affordable, as was done when the State of Israel was established. It must also make the average Israeli understand that living in the periphery is not bad, especially with fast trains as well as improvements in your roads.
For the upcoming election, all parties must get back to the basics and stop making promises that everyone knows cannot be kept. Otherwise, the next 50 years will be like the past 50 years, with homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks.
Kiryat Motzkin
The world listens
Sir, – Tzipi Livni is so right (“Livni: The world listens to me,” December 22). But then, that’s because she tells the world just what its wants to hear.
Livni told the world that UN Resolution 1701 was good. The world loved it, but it brought Hezbollah to our northern doorstep.
She told the world that pulling out of Gaza was great.
The world loved that, too, but we got Hamastan on our southern doorstep.
Any more of her brilliant PR victories and we’ll be finished.
Time to grow up
Sir, – Why are right-wing activists who want to safeguard the Jewish land from Arab terrorists always called extremists, while Arab MKs who call for the destruction of the state are given a free pass (“Police detain four more members of far-right-wing group Lehava,” December 22)? Why is it wrong for Lehava to protest against a Jewish woman marrying a Muslim when usually it is a Jewish organization that has to put its members at risk trying to rescue her once she realizes the mistake she made? Why is it wrong for Lehava to protest against assimilation with Arabs – unless, of course, the aim is to make this land less Jewish and free for all? Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane was a realist and a proud Jew who wanted Jews to be able to defend themselves.
His anti-Arab ideology has been proved right, as witnessed by thousands of Jewish graves.
While his proud party was outlawed in Israel for supposedly inciting racism, people like MK Haneen Zoabi can vilify us to her heart’s content and even make contact with our worst enemies.
That is called “free speech.”
Really, is it not time we in this country grew up and stopped behaving like simpletons, blaming the good people while giving the bad ones a get-out-ofjail- free card?
A connection?
Sir, – Regarding “Academic boycotts” (Editorial, December 22), could there be a connection between such boycotts and the generous Arab bequests to universities and other important institutions? Muammar Gaddafi’s son received an unearned London School of Economics degree. Subsequently, it was canceled and the funds returned. Martin Indyk receives his remuneration from the Brookings Institution, a recipient of financial support from Qatar.
Arab financial support surely provides fertile ground for boycott, divestment and sanctions supporters.
Have a cigar
Sir, – Restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba will be welcomed by American cigar smokers (“Cuba’s famed cigars get a foot in the door of US market,” Business & Finance, December 22).
President Barack Obama has not had any positive achievements in his foreign affairs policies to show for his almost six years at the tiller – until now. At last, he can sit back and enjoy the kudos he so much hankers after. He can also stop trying to shove the phony peace/piece process onto a reluctant Middle East, and spend the remaining time of his lackluster presidency making peace between the races in the US (and, of course, writing his fanciful memoirs).