'Underprivileged kids steal food to survive'
Poverty report reveals that more than half of Israel's poor are children, who resort to stealing and picking up food off of ground. 'In any other country, it would have caused rebellion,' says Eran Weintraub, general manger of Latet organization
David Regev • Ynet
Approximately a million of Israel's residents are needy and 530,000 of whom are children, according to an alternative poverty report published by Latet, an Israeli humanitarian aid foundation.
Also according to the report, 5,500 of the needy kids have resorted to stealing food over the past year, 2,500 were forced to beg and 5,000 collected food that was thrown away. Moreover, 110,000 went to school without lunch, 100,000 have cut down on school work to help provide for the family, and 260,000 walked around in torn shoes. Approximately 480,000 went without dental treatments.
Meital Saada's family, which lives in the central Israeli city of Lod, is the embodiment of this grim state. At night Saada wraps her four children in thin blankets, which she could barely afford. The 37-year-old's financial state deteriorated after her divorce. She shares a small studio apartment with her children, her debt is growing and her possessions are facing foreclosure.
Most of her income, which amounts to NIS 5,000 ($1,391) a month from stipends and child support, goes to raising her children. They live mostly on sandwiches, and get warm meals only on weekends.
"They don't attend extracurricular activities, don't ask for money and are too ashamed to bring friends home," Saada said. "I'm in despair over the situation, and there are many others like me."
71% of elderly can't afford medicine
The elderly population living under the poverty line does not fare much better than the needy children. According to the report, 71% are unable to pay for medicine and medical services – a 115% increase from five years ago. Two out of three senior citizens do not leave home as result of financial hardship.
General data presented in the report shows that 75% of the needy have had to go without meals over the past year – a 21% increase since 2009. The biggest fear of 7% of them is dying of starvation. About 75% of Israeli organizations report that demand for food by poor individuals has risen by 27%, compared to last year.
In 40% of underprivileged families, none of the members have complementary health insurance; more than half of the children do not have it. In 6% of these families, one member has died over the past year because of inability to pay for medical services.
Latet General Manager Eran Weintraub said that since the year 2000, poverty levels have risen despite reports that the economy is growing.
"In any other developed nation in the world, this social policy failure would have justified a civil rebellion and the overturning of the government," he said. "Only the poor in Israel don't have this kind of political power. We only have sectors that can unionize and fight for their own terms and rights."
The backstory here is that the Federations' are very poor stewards of the money they send to Israel, much of which is misappropriated by government and quasi-government agencies.
Israel has enough money on its own to deal compassionately and effectively with its elderly and poor – but its government chooses not to do it.
Muddying the waters even further are haredim who make themselves poor intentionally and who demand government handouts to continue their lifestyle of idleness.
Israel's treatment of its legitimately poor is shameful, as is its treatment of haredim, who siphon off much of the money that should be used to help the truly needy.
The answer to these problems is not to send more money to Israel.
The answer is tough love. Cut off all donations to Israel until the government shifts to taking care of its legitimately poor and makes haredim get jobs, serve in the army and pull thier own weight.
Will the Federations do this?
I doubt it. They don't have the guts or the vision or the talent.