As anyone who follows Kehila News Israel probably knows, we have a national election coming up on the 9th of April. I have a lot of opinions about the people running and who I think would be the best option to win and the general situation, but I really don’t want to ask whoever might be reading this to pray for my personal political preferences.
Rather, I’m asking you to pray for an issue to become important in this election which so far is being largely ignored by nearly everyone running.
That issue is the cost of living in Israel.
This issue is being SO ignored that Moshe Kahlon, the leader of the Kulanu Party who served as Finance Minister in the outgoing government and managed to push forward quite a bit of legislation which substantially decreased the cost of living in Israel, has built his campaign around an appeal for votes based on the slogan that he is “the only one who cares”.
It might be a sign that I’m getting soft and mushy in my old age, but that pierces me.
Frankly, I think it might be more than a political slogan. Based on the statements and platforms of most of the major parties, the cost of living (and the related quality of life) here is not something most of the people who aspire to govern this country are terribly concerned with or even aware of. This is even more astounding and infuriating when one considers the sheer number of people whose lives are negatively affected by this neglectful attitude
According to various reports I’ve seen over the years, mostly in The Jerusalem Post, nearly 20% of Israel’s general population, and an appalling 40% of children, live below the poverty line. Even among those who don’t live in poverty, there is a harsh mathematical reality that nearly everyone in Israel is familiar with whereby the money one must pay for rent, groceries, electricity, etc. is roughly equal to what one must pay for these things in Europe or North America (in some cases they’re even more expensive) but the amount of money most jobs pay in Israel is lower than a comparable job in Europe or North America.
This is a problem for Israel on many levels, but just for example think about the demographic issue.
I am personally acquainted with several people, including Believers, who were born in this country, grew up here, served honorably in the military and would have wanted to build their lives and their families here, but they left in their mid-20s and moved to other countries where they were eligible to become citizens for NO OTHER REASON than the economic one.
Israel NEEDS those people. The Believer community here DESPERATELY needs them. But you can’t really blame them for making the choice they did.
I know other Jewish people who live in the Diaspora, including members of my own extended family, who love to visit Israel and even speak really good Hebrew but they would never move here because they have a good quality of life where they’re living now and they know that if they moved here it would be much more difficult for them.
Then there’s a third category of people who moved here, stayed for a while and then moved back because the money they’d brought with them ran out and they couldn’t find an income which would allow them to make ends meet.
As good as the overall economic situation in this country is, most of the benefits of this booming economy are going to a fairly small percentage of people while the rest continue to struggle. Although I am not and never will be a “socialist” it is a fact that government policies, plans, laws and priorities can be tweaked and changed in ways that would hugely benefit many people without unduly penalizing those who achieve, innovate and create wealth.
All of this has been widely reported and commented on in the Israeli media for years, and about ten years ago there was a protest movement regarding it which started up and continued in fits and starts for a few years. But the politicians and business community paid little attention to this, and then other issues came back into prominence, mostly the ever-present and overlapping issues of “security” and what Israel is going to do with the Territories (aka Judea and Samaria aka the West Bank) as well as the diplomatic situation. All of these issues are known to be strongly emotive with voters, so politicians will focus on them and the cost of living gets almost totally ignored.
So I’m asking, as a personal favor for myself and many people like me who struggle in this situation, to pray that those who aspire to govern Israel would become more concerned with trying to find ways to make it more affordable for people to simply exist in this country. If you believe, as I do, that God wants the Jewish People to live in Israel, there are few things which are more important than this.