Israelis' Mass Exodus Can't Be Blamed on the Price of Pudding

The question that should be asked is not why so many Israelis are leaving for Berlin, but simply why so many Israelis are leaving.

Boaz Arad
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Nice, but not the main attraction: Atrium of the Mall of Berlin shopping center on opening night, September 24, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Boaz Arad

Stop the presses and call our best commentators to the studio on the double! You won’t believe this, but the price of the Milky pudding snack is cheaper in Berlin than it is in Tel Aviv. That, it turns out, is the real cost of living in the capital of Germany. Once every few months, we have to deal with a flood of telephone calls from producers of television programs who want to probe our shopping lists, as well as self-righteous, embarrassing articles trying to tell you that we are soft and spoiled and that the German discount supermarket chains have linked up with radical Islam to create a second Holocaust.

Do not believe anyone who tells you that we moved here for the Milky. Do not listen to anyone who closes his eyes and stops his ears at this social phenomenon, which crosses all borders and social classes, and yells “Na-na-na-Nazis.”

Do not cooperate with such shallow, lying populism. It is a distraction from the actual, deep problems that have made many of us get up and start our lives over elsewhere. Do you really think that people are willing to put themselves through the difficult experience of immigrating to a foreign country, where they do not speak the language, for a more affordable supermarket bill? That they are willing to tolerate the depressing weather of northern Europe and the severe lack of sun and sea for that? Let us open this discussion up for a moment and talk about the essential things that exist here and not there.

For instance, functioning and convenient public transportation that allows people to live on the periphery and work in the center. A police force that serves the citizens rather than the tycoons and heads of organized crime families. A feeling of personal safety. A strong social welfare safety net that helps you get back on your feet if you fall, even if you are a small-business owner and even if you are no longer young. Free education – really free – from age one until graduation from university. Free day care for children until age five. Affordable housing. Rent that is regulated by law so that it cannot be raised every year as much as the landlord wishes. A normal work day that allows parents to spend time with their children. Real maternity leave. A two-day weekend. Quiet. And just as important: Nobody pushes their nose into your private life and demands that you explain your decision to live in any given place, why your wife is not Jewish or why you are not married.

These things exist in many places on earth, not just in Berlin. After all, Berlin is not the issue, contrary to what people are trying to make you believe. It is nothing more than an example. An example of what we could have had. So the question that should be asked – if the fact that people whom you do not know immigrate to a different country is really so disturbing to you – is not why so many Israelis are leaving for Berlin, but simply why so many Israelis are leaving. Some people want you to believe that it is because of the prices at the supermarket. Here’s a little spoiler: These are exactly the same people who promised you in the last election campaign that any minute, things are going to be just great.

The writer is an Israeli journalist living in Berlin.

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