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November 25, 2014 7:02 pm

New Israel Poverty Poll: 95% Pessimistic About Coming Year

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Poverty-in-Jerusalem: Food donation stations. Photo: Dave Bender.

Poverty-in-Jerusalem: Food donation stations. Photo: Dave Bender.

A new poll on poverty in Israel charges that “despair and anger” among the country’s Jewish population are rife, and even more worrying, that one in four is weighing suicide as a way out.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) told The Algemeiner on Tuesday that the 500 men and women sampled portray a “start-up nation” that is leaving many behind.

“Israel is at the bottom of the OECD’s [international Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development] list of countries in the developed world,” he pointed out.

The Jewish state’s 20.9 percent poverty rate – according to OECD figures – is almost double the 11.3% average.

Eckstein said that, while the IFCJ raises some $150 million annually for social welfare assistance, help for the elderly, for soldiers and others, the government has to step in and do more to alleviate the predicament of those suffering below the poverty line.

The Shivuk-Panorama telephone survey, taken between November 16th and the 21st, contacted slightly more men than women (51.4 to 48.6 percent), who were predominantly between the ages of 40 to 59 (37.2%), and has a 4.5% error margin. 33.8% were between 18 and 39, and 29% were over 60.

Eckstein noted that the poll was taken among Jews only, in order not to sway the results by including the traditionally lagging Arab sector.

Among respondents, 28.2% percent defined themselves as “secular,” 34.6% as “traditional,” 14% as “religious,” and 23.2% as “haredi.”

Major findings included in the poll indicated that “82% of those in poverty feel the state doesn’t care about them, 40% do not feel a part of Israeli society,” and a worrying “95% are pessimistic about their chances of escaping poverty.”

“One in four people knows someone close to them who has considered suicide due to their economic situation,” according to Eckstein, and the figures cited in the survey bear out simmering frustration over the situation, with a startling 33% “willing to take part in protests, block roads and burn tires to protest against their economic situation.”

Fifteen percent said theft was a justified method of acquiring basic goods for poor families, with an equal percentage indicating that they supported “threatening behavior towards public officials in the Knesset and government to ensure they work more effectively to change the situation.

Even more worrying, 5% justified “the use of weapons to force someone to act more effectively to change the situation for those living in poverty in Israel.”

Among the most significant findings:

  • 61% of those living in poverty said their situation had worsened in the past year.
  • 95% of those living in poverty are pessimistic about the coming year.
  • 25% of those living in poverty are close to someone who considered suicide because of their economic situation.

Noting the disparities, Eckstein said in a statement that “a situation whereby 95% are pessimistic about the coming year is a dangerous one.”

When queried about feelings of “detachment from society and government,” 82% said they felt “that the government doesn’t care about people living in poverty,” 61% have lost faith in government institutions (including the Government, Knesset, and Judiciary), and a majority do not plan to vote in the next elections.

Forty percent said they “do not feel a part of Israeli society,” and an equal percentage “are willing to send their children to serve in the IDF.”

The findings tally with a Central Bureau of Statistics figures in late October, which revealed that about 725,000 Israelis – among them 29 percent of Israeli Arabs and 12 percent of Jews – define themselves as poor.

Thirty percent are at risk of poverty – almost double the 17 percent in comparative statistics from Europe, according to the report.

“What we’ve see in the last few years is a very, very stark increase in the number of working poor,” Deena Fiedler of Leket, a decade-old umbrella organization which serves as as the nation’s largest food bank and food rescue service, told The Algemeiner.

Fiedler’s warning, that “in the past, when people thought of poverty in Israel, they mostly thought of the Arab and Charedi communities,” a sentiment that coincided with Eckstein’s findings.

“But there’s been a big increase in the number of functional families, where both the husband and wife hold jobs, except that the cost of living in Israel has gone up so drastically, that on the wages that they make, they can’t put food on the table,” Fiedler said.

Eckstein said the poll “presents a shocking picture of social division between two groups in Israel society,” and added that “without swift and effective action by the state, organizations like ours, are forced to step in. The Fellowship alone will provide a quarter of a billion shekels to help hundreds of thousands of elderly people and families with children who live in poverty.”

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  • Elliot Miller

    These are stunning revelations. I– and most American Jews– had no idea of these facts.

  • Ben Tzur

    A further questionable aspect of the reported findings: it says the Central Bureau of Statistics states that some 750,000 Israelis, 29% of Arabs and 12% of Jews, “define themselves as poor.” But this is not a measure of poverty, merely of “relative poverty.” It is not an objective measure, and may merely reflect an environment in which the poor are actually significantly much better off than before, but perceive themselves in relation to those increasing others who are wealthier than they. “Relative poverty” is a measure of envy, not of poverty.

    Formerly, the poor often lived in their own enclaves and did not feel their poverty so keenly even though it was much worse than nowadays, whereas in modern society there is a lot more intercommunication and the middle-class media penetrates everywhere. It very much looks like this poll is really built on a leftist ideological objection to the rapid rise in income in Israel in the past decades, which sinfully makes the wealthy very much more wealthy than ever before, with large numbers also of the poor upwardly mobile and entering the middle classes. So there is an income gap with the “poor,” even if their own conditions improve too. For very left-wing types, that should be forbidden: everyone should be equally poor (they say: equally wealthy), so there must be a redistribution to eliminate the manifestly sinfully wealthier.

    However, all societies that rapidly increase income levels have also increased disparities between the wealthier upper and middle classes and the poorer lower classes, even though all actually improve in their quality of life. As Israel’s remarkable economic boom levels off, these differences are likely to moderate, as has been the case in all democratic societies, although it is interesting that Obama’s U.S. provides an example of a left-wing ideologically driven welfare-oriented government that has actually greatly worsened the poorer classes in real terms, not just relatively, and increased their unemployment, exacerbating the income gap rather than lessening it. This shows that welfare and more government largesse is not always the best answer to such problems.

  • carole

    i cant pay bills my childrens teeth are rotting because i dont have money for dentistry.often we just have bread and something to smear on it.dont think that just israelis have it hard. as a olah vitik of 37 years i know alot of americans living here,who go without heat in the winter,turned off electricity,no gas etc.i havent seen any change over the years.the only way for a child of an american living in israel to escape poverty is going into the army.

  • Robert Davis

    Maybe the govt. is not doing enough for the poor,I do not know but those poor should also be aware that the same conditions applyall over the West not just Israel. We are in a crisis in europe too apart from the fact that Israel is at war. They are showing some selfishness by taking in consideration ONLY their own conditions.

  • David Goshen

    The high level of violence women suffer is very likely connected to the rediciliously high cost of living which is
    generally the source of family friction.There are too many
    mopolistic protections of the huge corporations .Allow the farmers to sell directly to the public and see how the COL drops!!Pars of 80-100% profits by surmarket chains are redicilious.The theory of the government that protection of the strong will result in a trickle to the needy has been totally disproved.
    It is no secret that the low % of unemployed published each month is not reaklly the truth.The Government should set up a website inviting the unemployed public to submit requestes for jobs and the optimistic % will be distroyed.There are tens of thousands of unemployed that have given up hope of finding employment.If the government would take unemployment seriously and find jobs the gaps would start closing.If the Government wont set up the website maybe Rabbi Eckstein shuld set it up!

  • Luigi Rosolin

    I’m surprise to learn that poverty is a big problem in Israel, in many nations is a huge problem that create more hate and rebellion logically as peoples became desperate. The social economic poverty by Israel citizen is not been take attention or reported on international media. Hope that with God help and good will Israel can stimulate better resource and equality.

  • Jonah

    Instead of giving up ground repatriate Gaza and give it to the poor. That would stop the military expense of continually spending hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to intercept missles. If the Palestinians refuse to be good neighbors give them a free pass back to Palestine, inevitably that is what is going to happen as IsIs and Iran arm them for the finale destruction of Israel the only thing left of Gaza will be concrete dust.

  • Julian Clovelley

    “the poll was taken among Jews only, in order not to sway the results by including the traditionally lagging Arab sector.”

    That my friends – is racism. It is rather like saying that The Grosse Deutsche Reich was a peaceful and prosperous forward looking empire (so long as one did not include Czechs, Yugoslavs, Poles, Norwegians, French, Dutch, Danes, Belgians Gypsies, intellectually disabled, homosexuals, socialists, Gypsies – and who else? – ah yes, Jews – in the calculations)

    The Arab population has been treated in this most important of polls as not only lesser in value but as non-persons. Surely Jews, of all people, know what that feels like.

    And people wonder why so many in the world have thrown their hands in despair over this attitude that seems to currently dominate this present Israeli Government

    I am pained Rabbi Eckstein, to say that I think in the interests of peace you should publicly apologise for this apparent outrage. A more honest poll would not only include everyone resident in the State of Israel, but everyone in the Occupied territories too, because it is the Israeli Administration that has a duty of care to all of them.

    There are solutions but all rely on ending the Zionist pust towards a monocultural society. Where you discount a citizen, then he is likely left with no other possibility than to be a welfare recipient

    As well as a revolutionary – for if he is not counted then he has no Government.

  • Help lower the price of meat in Israel so poor families and their children may eat a little meat for Shabbat dinner. By helping the Israel Longhorn Project. Robin 650-631-9270

  • Bernard Ross

    misleading headline refers ot 95% of those IN poverty now. Of course they are unhappy. DUH? there was a recent poll showing Israelis as among the happiest i the world.
    Haredi and arabs dont want to work

  • blackrose

    What is the address of Leket for purposes of making a direct monetary donation?

  • NCS

    Thank G-d for The Rabbi.

  • Ben Tzur

    Beware of ideologically driven “opinion polls.” The claims made in this article are contradicted by repeated opinion polls by global organizations like the OECD Happiness Index, which find, year after year, that Israelis are amongst the happiest people in the world. This finding is even confirmed by an organization ideologically hostile to Israel, the U.N. itself. E.g., in the 2012 UN World Happiness Report, Israel ranked as the 14th happiest country in the world. In 2013, it had moved up to the 11th happiest. It also scores very high on “human development” UN global surveys relating to quality of life, medical care, and similar basic influences on happiness, ranking 15th in the world in the U.N. Human Development report for 2010. These findings are replicated by Israeli polls. E.g., the annual polls by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research rather dismay the left-wing Center, in that year after year Israelis report that their lives are good, and that around 80% say they are “happy” or “very happy” and “optimistic” or “very optimistic” about their lives and about Israel’s future.

    Furthermore, the claims about suicide are not borne out by the actual statistics: Israel has amongst the lowest suicide rates in the world. The U.N. keeps statistics on that, and consistently shows that Israel’s rates are very low. Just recently the Israel Health Ministry issued a report documenting that Israel has the second lowest overall death rate for men amongst 20 European states. So I am very sceptical indeed about the claims of this article and the poll it reports on.