Rotten Fruit

Why should the poverty situation in Israel be any better if in 2010 nothing has been done, yet again, to improve it?

Every year they promise things will be better next year. And every year the poverty report refutes the forecasts. It's safe to say things will be even worse next year.

Homeless man in Tel Aviv, TOMER APPELBAUM
Tomer Appelbaum

Why should they be any better if in 2010 nothing has been done, yet again, to improve them?

The heads of state were far away the day the report was issued. The prime minister and his family were in America, as were the chairman of the Labor Party and the head of the opposition. As though they had nothing to do with this report, as though the reality it reflects is not their doing, not the rotten fruit from their own private paradise. For 1,774,800 Israelis, it is hell.

The constant increase in the number of the newly rich corresponds perfectly with the number of the newly poor. The more numerous the insatiable big fish are, the greater the distress of the small fish.

This is what happens when Benjamin Netanyahu turns out to be the bad old Bibi. As finance minister he pushed hundreds of thousands below the poverty line. As prime minister he isn't lifting a finger to lift them up. Why should he bother if they keep voting for him anyway?

This is what happens when Ehud Barak looks on life down here from high-rise penthouse. His party is immersed in its tedious affairs, blindfolded. Every year it receives this all-Fs report card. This is what happens when a "socially concerned" party like Shas raises two generations of poor people who are dependent on Eli Yishai's handouts.

This is what happens when wages have no ceiling and no floor. The coalition refused to raise the minimum wage but did not curb those whose salaries exceed NIS 1 million a month. Is it any wonder Israel leads the OECD in wage gaps and inequality? This is what happens when yeshiva students are bound with stipends and scholarships instead of being set free to work, when Israeli Arabs suffer discrimination.

Recent polls show most Israelis are satisfied with their lot. Blessed is the state whose poor are joyous. I must finish writing these lines; tomorrow is a new day, and it isn't "poverty day."