Three homeless Israelis died from exposure in Israel's worst cold snap in recent memory. Temperatures fell to as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Israel has a weak social welfare system that is overtaxed and overburdened by haredim who intentionally rely on it rather than work. This means truly needy Israelis are left with much less support than otherwise would be possible.
There is no reason for anyone too be homeless in Israel or in the US. But Israel, with its smaller, more homogeneous population, should be able to eliminate homelessness much faster and easier than the US.
It does not because it lacks the will to do so and because any solution that would solve homelessness also has to deal with the haredi problem – and there is certainly no political will for that.
A positive word about Satmar.
When I worked for Chabad in Jerusalem I met several homeless Jews. All were immigrants from America. Some had substance abuse issues, one was mentally ill, another simply down on his luck. They slept in ruins, in abandoned houses, in houses being remodeled, and at the Kotel sitting, in the far recesses of the covered area.
But when they could take it no more, they knew where they could go to get good food and a safe place to sleep – Satmar.
The same is true in Brooklyn where Satmar supports many Jews who would otherwise be homeless. I personally know of one case, a mentally ill man, who has an apartment and three meals a day given him by the Satmar community.
In the Eastern Europe of old, homeless Jews slept in the synagogues and study halls, and in hostels (often not very nice) provided by Jewish communities.
In modern day Israel and America, to my knowledge only Satmar carries on this tradition. The rest of the haredi and MO/National Religious world is content to do nothing or, in the case of Chabad and some Litvish groups, offer food but not shelter. (I am referring here to communal solutions, not to what individuals may or may not do.)
Most of these non-Satmar solutions benefit specific groups, not poor and homeless as a whole, although there are exceptions, including Meir Panim.
Why should we accept a world where people are hungry, where people are homeless, where they freeze to death on the streets and beaches of Israel or America?
Public housing stock in America is extremely inadequate. Waiting lists for housing programs have been closed in many locals for years. We are content, it seems, with voluntary shelters, often sponsored by churches, as if a cot on a gym floor is the best we can do. and Israel is worse – far worse.
Satmar has many flaws, to be sure. How they treat the poor, the weak and the sick among us is not one of them.
Sadly, none of us can say that about our shuls, our yeshivot, our communities, or our State.