June 28: Not just the cheese

Why should Israeli products cost double or more than the price charged abroad?

Not just the cheese
Sir, – I just read with dismay and frustration about the outrageous differential in prices charged in Israel compared to almost all other countries (“‘We’re getting ripped off for more than just cottage cheese,’” Business & Finance, June 26).
Why should this be? Is it the government taxing us to the hilt, or is it the fat cats at the top of the tree who are making huge profits on us, the gullible public? Why should Israeli products cost double or more than the price charged abroad? It is all very well being asked to boycott various food products and eat something cheaper, but what about Materna baby formula? Other brands are just as expensive. And why does anything with the word “diet” cost more than non-diet? The article does not give any answers as to how to reduce the costs.
Sir, – Regarding “The Great Israeli Cottage Cheese Uprising” (Editor’s Notes, June 24), this vital issue is not only about the spiraling cost of cottage cheese.
It could also be about medical professionals of 20 years’ experience receiving NIS 25 an hour for their expertise, compared to the cleaning lady who will only work for NIS 40 Shekels.
I hope that this column and the upcoming Knesset inquiry will emphasize the fact that while the Israeli consumer has turned away from his socialist past, he should beware of greed, graft and corruption in the guise of cartels and monopolies manipulated by oligarchs – who are encouraged, in turn, by incompetent government policies instead of the competition that is necessary for a vibrant, successful consumer economy.
Sir, – Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz met with the major dairy manufacturers and retailers in a bid to resolve the cottage cheese price problem (“We’ve become the land of cottage cheese,” June 24).
Your article notes that the dairy farmers were noticeably absent.
Lamentably, a very important group – consumers – was also not invited. Apparently, only well-organized groups participate in decision-making.
We are subject to decisions arrived at by big business and government alone. A strong voice for consumers is needed to bring on greater fairness in all economic areas.
Sir, – Your June 23 editorial “For real competition” must be given serious public discussion as it is the nub of the current economic situation. It must be considered together with what was elaborated in “Tnuva remains a monopoly” (Business & Finance, June 21) and “Wanted: Consumer Journalism” (Comment & Features, June 20), and in all finger- pointing to identify and ensure proper, expedient and effective regulation.
The crisis in the dairy industry has been brought about by the failure of the government to consider the effects of selling shares in both Bezeq and Tnuva to Apax Partners in the UK. This is a private equity investment group specializing in leveraged and management buy-outs, growth capital and late venture funds, and a venture capital organization.
During the period after Apax acquired their shares, the prices of products from both Israeli companies skyrocketed – not for the benefit of the public but to fill the coffers of already-rich shareholders.
Such actions are not acceptable, as they “milk” Israeli society and go against the tenets of Halacha.
Sir, – As one of those who is “out there,” as referred to in “For real competition,” I must say that with your newspaper’s help and encouragement, it is a pleasure to see my fellow countrymen and women actively participating in the boycott.
According to an informal poll, close to 50,000 Israelis (not Facebook folks) are actively taking a stand – so much so that it has been necessary for Jerusalem supermarkets to give outdated cottage cheese away.
However I, for one, am anxious.
We hear a lot of talk. We see a sporadic lowering of prices but no real new policy. So there is some consternation.
I say do not give up! To all the boycotters out there: Draw on your reserves (meaning no cottage cheese), for the fight has just begun!

Why celebrate?
Sir, – Statistics are known to be very misleading and even dangerous.
When the Central Bureau of Statistics said there were 3,187,000 people in the workforce (“Unemployment falls to record-low 5.8%,” Business & Finance, June 24), it did not distinguish between full-time or part-time jobs, or seasonal jobs.
The 192,000 said to be unemployed are those who are eligible to register at the labor exchange.The number excludes many who, month in and month out, continue to send out CVs in the hope that after many months they will finally find employment.
There are also large numbers of people who, after a few years of job-seeking, have lost hope.
Sadly, there are many unemployed people who are very qualified for jobs.
I would respectfully suggest that we have no cause to celebrate.

 Kiryat Ono
Try some kindness
Sir, – Regarding “Haredi offensive on Shabbat use of main Jerusalem street turns violent” (June 26), is this any way for nice Jewish men to act? No! Why are they watching the roads instead of praying in synagogue or attending Torah lessons? Stoning other Jews will not make these Jews stop driving.
Kindness might do the trick.
Show what religious Jews do by setting a good example.
Haredim can invite non-religious people to their homes for Kiddush or a Shabbat meal. With so much time on their hands and a fighting spirit they can help protect this country by going into the military, thus showing others they are all Jews, fighting to protect the Jewish people.
Show kindness to your fellow Jew, not hate.
The police also have a part in this. They should stop arresting those people who are stoned and are fighting back. Arrest the culprits, who feel Jerusalem is all theirs.
I am a religious Jew living in Ma’aleh Adumim with many secular Jews. I don’t throw stones. I set an example. We have no problems. How good it is when fellow Jews can live together in harmony and peace.
Ma’aleh Adumim
A needed posting
Sir, – As the UK Zionist community was rejoicing in the news that Daniel Taub had been put forward as the new Israeli ambassador, we were shocked to learn that the Foreign Ministry’s workers committee had raised objections because of Taub’s alleged lack of seniority (“Daniel Taub named new ambassador to London,” June 21).
Often, seniority is not the key to suitability – as we have learned to our cost in the past – and Taub has so much going for him in his background and his relevant experience that it is beyond belief that people who have no idea of the needs and criteria of the community he is destined to serve should think it appropriate to oppose this appointment.
It is particularly unacceptable at this critical time in Israel’s history that there are still many crucial European cities, including Berlin, Rome, Madrid and Brussels, with important but vacant Israeli diplomatic postings.
I suggest people put aside their petty jealousies and consider the overall good of Israel and the overwhelming approval of the people in the countries where the right diplomatic postings are so vital.
Cheadle, UK

The writer is co-president of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland