Information and news on israel

Uncovering the Struggles and Successes of Argentinian Jews
While Argentinian Jews make up only 0.7% of the population, they have faced significant economic hardship and anti-semitism over the last few decades. Pre-COVID-19, more than one-quarter of the population lived below the poverty line. Additionally, lingering anti-semitism and an economy in a recession have made it nearly impossible for educated Jews to find high-paying jobs.

“Poverty affects Argentinians in general, not only Jewish people, as well as the economic ups and downs, [but] maybe the economic crisis and the inflation affects mostly to Jewish people because many of them are business people who see their businesses, incomes and savings damaged,” Sabri Toker, the coordinator for Onward Israel in Argentina, told The Borgen Project.

COVID-19 Deepens the Poverty Line

In 2020, Argentina faced a significant increase in poverty as COVID-19 deepened the country’s economic crisis. Due to strict lockdowns, Argentina’s poverty rate spiked to between 46% and 47% by the end of June 2020. This is in comparison to just 35.5% in the second half of 2019. The poverty line, drawn at $193 per month, is the reality for many of the 3.5 million people who experience lay-offs during the pandemic.

The pandemic has particularly impacted Argentina’s Jewish community as well, and expectations have determined that much of the community will make aliyah, or emigration, to Israel in 2021 due to economic concerns. In Argentina, a large part of the Jewish population falls into the middle class and has assimilated into Argentinian life. Like most of the country’s middle class, the country’s faulty economy harshly hit this subset. Under President Mauricio Macri, the economy has faced sharp inflation and the devaluation of the peso, which pushed 3.7 million Argentinians below the poverty line in a single year.

A History of Hardship

Anti-semitic attacks were frequent in Argentina prior to World War I. Then, Argentinian Jews faced pogroms following the Russian Revolution; in January 1919, hundreds of Jews experienced beatings and others burned or stole their property. Unable to find government or military work, Jews worked as farmers and shopkeepers. They lived modest lifestyles until the rise of Nazi sentiment in the country.

The rise of Nazism further limited employment and education opportunities for Argentinian Jews. On top of that, many lived in a state of fear and poverty. Argentine Presidents José Félix Uriburu and Agustín Pedro Justo led pro-Nazi regimes prior to World War II. This sentiment continued under Juan Peron, who allowed Argentina to become a safe haven for Nazis. Since Peron’s presidency, 45,000 Argentinian Jews have moved to Israel to escape anti-semitism and the economic struggles associated with low-skilled jobs. In 1960, Israeli agents captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, which increased anti-semitism in Argentina. During a military junta called the Dirty War, hundreds of Jews suffered kidnap and torture.

Discrimination Contributes to Poverty

Anti-semitism reached new heights following two terrorist attacks under President Carlos Menem. Firstly, the Israeli Embassy bombing in 1992 killed 32 people. And secondly, the suicide van bomb attack on Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in 1994 killed 87 people.

“We have discrimination in every environment we are involved in: Secondary school, university, at work, on daily life. It is not usual and an everyday thing, but it exists,” Toker said. “In my opinion, the Jewish community lost a lot of cultural aspects mostly in the last decades of the 20th century.”

By 2002, 24.8% lived in poverty, with an additional 7.5% of Argentinian Jews living in extreme poverty. During this time, banks like Banco Patricios and Banco Mayo collapsed, taking with them millions of dollars that the Jewish community owned. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing many middle-class Jews below the poverty line. Very few Jews hold leadership positions in the military, foreign ministry, or judiciary. Efforts to reduce anti-semitism have picked up over the last decade, but anti-semitic attacks on rabbis and synagogues, including on the country’s chief rabbi Gabriel Davidovich in 2019, have not gone away.

Assisting Argentina’s Vulnerable Jewish Populations

President Alberto Fernández has worked to strengthen ties with Israel, hold terrorist groups accountable and rebuild the country’s Jewish population. After Argentina signed a decree that added Hezbollah to the registry of terrorist organizations, Argentina adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, which sends a clear message that it will not tolerate any form of anti-semitism, including in the workplace.

Created in 1991, Fundación Tzedaká has worked to improve living conditions and job opportunities for Argentina’s impoverished Jews. More than 600 volunteers, 6,500 donors and almost 100 professionals dedicate themselves to the organization’s cause. The Fundación gives food aid to vulnerable families and offers healthcare and nutrition programs. Additionally, it provides housing subsidies and gives training and educational resources to vulnerable youth. In 2020, the organization launched the Guesher Assistance Program. The Program specifically assists people unable to afford food, housing and health needs during the pandemic.

One of Argentina’s Jewish community centers, the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), and the Argentine Jewish Schools Federation (FEJA) have also been instrumental in helping sustain schools in Argentina’s Jewish School Network. With many Jewish schools operating only part-time, concerns exist that school desertion could become a major issue. This is particularly concerning to the community as a similar phenomenon occurred during Argentina’s economic crisis two decades ago. AMIA and FEJA encourage monetary contributions to ensure that students not only receive proper education but also remain in the system. Because of this, students have the option to pursue more advanced studies.

Holding On and Moving Forward

Argentina’s Jewish community retained many of its cultural traditions despite its assimilation into the broader Argentinian middle class. “Nowadays we have places run by Orthodox, others by Conservative, others by Reform, every Jew has the possibility of choosing where to go, what to do, what to leave aside,” Toker said. “Those who really want to maintain cultural aspects do that because they want to leave to their children what they received from their grandparents.”

Despite lingering anti-semitism and increasing COVID-19 hardships, Argentinian Jews have not lost their culture. They continue to seek employment and fight against those who have for so long have suppressed their growth.

– Noah Sheidlower
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in IsraelIt is an indisputable fact that everyone needs food for survival. Even further, everyone needs enough nutritious food to truly thrive. That being true, the reality is that not everyone gets enough high-quality, nutritious food yet significant amounts of food are thrown away daily. This dilemma is present globally and Israel is no exception. Food waste and food insecurity in Israel is a growing problem, but one organization, Leket Israel, is working to address both.

Israel’s Food Dilemma

Food waste is an excess of food that usually gets thrown into landfills instead of being consumed. The amount of food wasted in Israel is striking, but possibly more striking is the economic impacts it has on individual and infrastructural levels.

The Environmental Protection Ministry in Israel cited that Israeli families throw away about $1,000 worth of food per year. This equates to $352 million in waste treatment and a month and a half of average household food expenses.

Food waste is present not only on the household level but also prominently in the restaurant and agricultural sectors. Remedying food waste would likely lift a considerable economic weight from the shoulders of many Israeli individuals and communities.

Remedying food insecurity in Israel would do the same. Food insecurity is widely considered as a lack of consistent access to balanced, nutritious food sources. Many in Israel suffer from food insecurity and the number continues to climb.

The Latet organization’s yearly Alternative Poverty Report revealed that the 20.1% of Israeli households in poverty grew to 29.3% in 2020 due to COVID-19.

So naturally, food insecurity has worsened because of the pandemic. The number of food-insecure households in Israel grew from 17.8% before the pandemic to 22.6% in December 2020. Further, the number of households in extreme food insecurity increased by 34,000 during the pandemic, per the National Insurance Institute of Israel.

There is a great need to address the dilemma of food waste and food insecurity in Israel.

Leket Israel

Leket Israel is an organization that recognizes the importance of addressing the increased need for more accessible food sources and reducing food waste. Joseph Gitler started an organization in 2003 that would become Leket Israel, a food bank and the largest food rescue chain in the country.

Specifically, Leket takes nutritional food excesses and distributes them to thousands of Israelis who need them. The food provided mostly consists of agricultural surpluses and gathered cooked meals that would become food waste, with special focus on the quality and nutritional value of the food distributed to beneficiaries across Israel.

Nutritional Education

Within food insecure populations that do not have access to reliable nutritious food, there can also be a lack of knowledge about balanced nutrition. For this reason, Leket Israel implements multiple nutrition workshops to make its impact and fight to promote food security more lasting. Nutritional workshops involve lessons on how to select and prepare diverse, healthy meals on a restricted budget. They are given in Hebrew, Amharic, Arabic and Russian to increase accessibility.

There is a greater demand for the work that Leket Israel is doing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in food insecurity across Israel. The organization’s affirmative response to this demand is undeniable. Take, for example, the experience of Natalie Digora. During the pandemic, Leket Israel is helping people like Natalie Digora in Ramat Gan, Israel, who turned to the organization after being sent home from her occupation as an opera singer in March 2020. They have continued serving her.

Turning Food Trash into Food Treasure

Digora’s story is one of thousands. To date, Leket Israel has served more than 2,300,000 cooked meals to more than 200,000 individuals. As it continues this, turning one person’s trash into another’s treasure, Leket gives hope to people struggling with food insecurity in Israel.

– Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Innovations Reducing Poverty in IsraelDeveloping nations like Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Chad tend to capture global attention as the world’s most impoverished countries. While these countries take precedence in discussions regarding global poverty, with good reason, countries that one would not consider “impoverished” do exist outside the limelight. One of these countries is the state of Israel. However, innovations reducing poverty in Israel have changed the lives of many impoverished citizens.

Situated on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Israel has a population of 8.6 million people and an annual GDP of $350 billion as of 2017. As a global innovator in technology and science, it is often referred to as the “start-up nation”. One might assume that poverty would not plague a country with such a flourishing international economy. However, even people living in countries with strong economies experience poverty.

Poverty in Israel

The challenge of reducing poverty in Israel is at the forefront of low-priority socio-economic issues. The lack of attention can be attributed to the Israeli government’s focus on security. As of 2018, more than 21% of Israel’s population was living below the poverty line. One in three children across the state lives in poverty. For a country that has seen so much economic growth in the last decade alone, the idea that over a fifth of its citizens is unable to sustain themselves is hard to swallow. Nevertheless, several key factors explain just why the number of people living in poverty is so high.

Of those living beneath the poverty line in Israel, several social groups have been particularly affected. Single mothers constitute one group, though in recent years the percentage of Israeli single mothers in poverty has declined. Israel’s disabled population makes up another substantial group of its poor. The groups most significant and crucial to understanding Israel’s poor, however, include Orthodox Jews and Arab communities. Devoted to full-time religious study, many Orthodox Jews do not work and depend on state-issued pensions.

Discrimination in Israel’s social order and workplaces have contributed to the significant increase in unemployment in Arab communities. While these groups continue to struggle, a number of Israeli NGOs have produced innovations that are key to reducing poverty in Israel.

Pitchon-Lev

The largest humanitarian organization in the state of Israel, Pitchon-Lev, aids more than 168,000 Israelis per year. Its campaigns range from ensuring Israel’s children have enough food to lobbying for direct government aid for the poor. Pitchon-Lev’s success in combating poverty in Israel is due to innovation in a surprising arena: personal connections. Pitchon-Lev’s team of volunteers develop close and personal relationships with those whom they aid, giving the impoverished the friendships and tools they need to rebuild their lives. With its personal connections to the people it helps, Pitchon-Lev is truly striving towards reducing poverty in Israel.

Latet

In Hebrew, Latet means “to give,” and the NGO Latet does just that. As the head of Israel’s largest food bank, Latet is known for its continued fight against both poverty and hunger in Israel. Latet has aided a wide range of diverse groups, from Israel’s youth to Holocaust survivors. Its innovation in reducing poverty in Israel appears simple, but it is effective: promoting responsibility. Volunteers of the organization teach ideals of care for others and shared responsibility for the state of the country’s citizens. They aim to spread these values not only to those whom they assist, but also to the general Israeli public. By encouraging these ideals, Latet aims to push the issue of national poverty further into the public eye, and eventually into the government’s priorities as well.

Shalva

As previously mentioned, Israel’s disabled population makes up one of the largest groups of the country’s poor. As Israel’s leading NGO in the care of disabled persons, Shalva provides more than 2,000 services for disabled people in areas ranging from education to vocational training. Shalva’s innovation in combating poverty is perhaps the most important of all: promoting equal opportunity. All of Shalva’s programs are non-denominational. This provides disabled persons from all religious and social backgrounds the help they need to bring themselves out of poverty. Shalva has national recognition from the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services and the Ministry of Health. It continues to be one of Israel’s most innovative NGOs for citizens with special needs.

Despite its global success as an innovator in science and modern technology, Israel still has a long way to go in terms of prioritizing its own people over international beneficiaries. Thankfully, organizations such as Pitchon-Lev, Latet and Shalva have proven that this small nation is working toward a better future.
Alex Poran
Photo: Flickr

Israel's Foreign AidIsrael, a country 18 times smaller than California, is proving that size does not matter in terms of global impact. For decades, Israel has served as a trailblazer in technology, medicine, artificial intelligence and innovation. Golda Meir, Israel’s former Prime Minister, spearheaded a program called MASHAV in 1957. MASHAV is a Hebrew acronym for “Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.” At its onset, MASHAV worked with countries in Africa and Asia. Today, MASHAV works with more than 130 countries like Ethiopia, Vietnam and Guatemala.

Natural Disaster Response

Among the most impactful of Israel’s foreign aid is the work with refugees, natural disasters and terrorism response. For example, in 1995, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, in collaboration with the Israeli Defense Force, created a humanitarian aid unit that executes operations worldwide. Israel has sent 24 delegations of Israel’s foreign aid team to 22 countries between 1985 and 2015.

Israel’s aid to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake is among the most respected of Israel’s foreign aid efforts. Israel, one of the first countries to send support to Haiti, set up makeshift hospitals and disaster relief tents. Israel’s teams sent more than 200 doctors and volunteers to treat those affected by the disaster directly at the scene. In less than two weeks, Israel’s foreign aid teams treated more than 1,000 Haitians, performed more than 300 successful surgeries, delivered 16 babies and rescued four lost individuals.

Start-Up Nation

Israel’s foreign aid capacity can be primarily attributed to its advanced technology. In 2019, Israel received the third-largest amount of funding from venture capitalist firms for various Israeli startups. The U.S. and China are the only countries that received more funding. In the last six years, annual investments have increased from $112 million to $650 million, with more than 250 active startups.

Among Israel’s startups are various medical companies working on COVID-19 innovations. For example, the Israel Innovation Authority is working to create a robotics partnership. This partnership will connect Israeli companies to South Korean companies to collaborate on coronavirus solutions. Additionally, with more than 600 investors and 100 companies working on COVID-19 technological solutions, the Israeli private sector is far more efficient than other companies and governments.

Most recently, Israel developed a sticker called the Maya to cover medical doctors’ masks to decrease their exposure to the virus. Made of a nanofiber material, the masks contain nanoscale pores that prevent the virus from attaching to the mask’s base. The virus itself is 130 nanometers, which is small enough to attach to standard masks. However, the Maya prevents such attachment. The U.S. and Europe are expected to approve the mask. In addition, there are currently plans to export the masks to Canada, Japan and Spain.

Israel’s foreign aid efforts span from natural disaster relief to cutting edge technological advances. The country’s global impact in comparison to it’s size is proving Israel to be a trailblazer in global aid and innovation.

Maya Sulkin

Photo: Pixabay

Israeli-UAE Peace AgreementIn recent decades, viewers have been bombarded by news of violence and dysfunction in the Middle East; however, on August 13, 2020, a different sort of headline broke. Instead of another bombing or raid, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached a peace agreement brokered by the United States. Although fighting over this area is nothing new, the Israel-UAE peace agreement may be a positive step in the right direction. In light of this momentous occasion, here are the top four things to know about the deal.

5 Facts About the Israel-UAE Peace Agreement

  1. What is the Israel-UAE Peace Agreement? In August 2020, the leader of Israel, the UAE and the United States met to discuss and break ground on initiatives to achieve stability in the Middle East region for the sake of each nation’s citizens and those of neighboring countries. The grit of this deal lies in its ability to prevent Israel’s annexation of the West Bank region, which the nation announced its intention to do earlier in the summer of 2020.
  2. What is the West Bank and why is it home to so much conflict. Tension in the region dates back to the early 20th century after Britain took control of the region. During this time, both Jewish and Palestinian groups were claiming the region as their home. After world war II, many Jewish people began flooding the region to escape from persecution in Europe. This influx would only increase the amount of violence between the two groups as well as British control. The British government continually attempted to draw a plan to please all sides of the conflict but were ultimately unable to do so. This led to the British authorities pulling out of the area in 1948, which then allowed Jewish leaders to declare the state of Israel. Following the creation of the new state, wars broke out. Jerusalem was divided between the area known as the West Bank, which was held by Palestinian forces, and Israeli forces to the East. No peace agreements were drawn up until recently, so the conflict has remained steady regardless of shifting forces.
  3. What implications could this have on the larger area? According to NPR, the only two nations in the Middle East with a diplomatic relationship with Israel are Jordan and Egypt. Given the lack of diplomatic connections holding the region together, violence has been a lasting component of the region. Though this agreement is between the UAE and Israel, Saudi Arabia is directly implicated in the deal as well. Altogether, this deal will draw at least three nations into a deal with one another that will hopefully de-escalate tensions and incentivize cooperation from other nations as well.
  4. What have organizations been doing? The Latet organization has been working in Israel to help mitigate the effects of poverty. According to a study the National Insurance Institute conducted in 2018, about 21.1% of the Israeli population lived below the poverty line. Moreover, almost 30% of those people are children. However, those in impoverished conditions reported to previously have been in the middle class. This indicates that previous socio-economic status has little to do with current placement. The amount of violence occurring between the two sides of this fight is destabilizing the region from a security standpoint. In the midst of this chaos, the Latet organization works to distribute food and other supplies in order to counteract the effects of poverty on individuals. It partners with different groups in order to distribute approximately $25-30 million worth of food to individuals throughout Israel.

The Middle East has been home to a lot of conflicts. However, the new Israel-UAE Peace Agreement gives many a reason to hope for a more peaceful future. The deal itself is only the first step in the right direction, which should help to promote a more peaceful world.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

empowering women in Israel
Founded in 1925, NA’AMAT is an organization that provides support, education and service to Israeli women. The women who originally started the organization believed in equality: that women were equal to men and deserved equal chances at life. The organization began in New York with the purpose of empowering women in Israel. Eventually, the organization spread to nine countries in total.

Israeli women fought for the right to receive equal treatment in the workplace and community long before the 1960s feminism movement. They demanded respect for all they did as wives and mothers. NA’AMAT played a large role in providing resources for these women. Its mission statement reads: “[NA’AMAT provides] vital educational and social services for women, children and families in need, in Israel.” Here are three ways NA’AMAT fulfills its mission statement.

Nurturing Children

NA’AMAT has 200 facilities to provide childcare to over 17,000 children, so their parents are able to work. The families who enroll pay based on a sliding scale fee, depending on their income. Because so many families live below the poverty line, the NA’AMAT U.S.A. branch raises funds to help pay for these children to attend.

On top of providing early education, NA’AMAT is also a safe haven for children who have suffered abuse or neglect, become an orphan or experienced terrorism. These children receive counseling and special attention.

Empowering Women

In 2004, 18,000 women in Israel reported experiencing abuse, but authorities believe the actual number was closer to 140,000-200,000. One out of three women will experience sexual assault according to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. However, most women with conservative or religious backgrounds do not file a complaint.

NA’AMAT focuses on empowering women in Israel by operating legal aid bureaus. Its purpose is to help women who have been victims of workplace discrimination and domestic abuse. It provides counseling and programs that give women a sense of pride and self-worth.

Education For At-Risk Youth

Not everyone without an education lives in poverty, but people who experience poverty are far more likely to not have an education. Education opens doors: it provides more job opportunities, helps fight gender inequality and allows people to develop social skills.

NA’AMAT provides education and vocational training for low-income children. Some of the schools are girls-only, and each student receives personalized care and attention. Whether the children have come from underrepresented groups in Israel or are migrants, NA’AMAT gives them a second chance at developing skills to contribute to society and feel a sense of empowerment.

Empowering women in Israel is a clear focus of the organization. Through NA’AMAT, Israeli women can progress forward in their lives. Whether they have been victims of abuse or neglect, the organization helps them stand on their own two feet. NA’AMAT gives women the support they’d otherwise lack with helping care for children, so they can have a career and provide for their families.

Each woman truly receives personalized care. Additionally, positive role models surround their children and provide support through their adolescence. With NA’AMAT on their side, Israeli women have had an ally for almost 100 years to help fight for equality for themselves and their children.

Tawney Smith
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Israel
Poverty in Israel impacts 469,400 families with around 1.8 million Israeli citizens living below the poverty line. Children make up 841,000 of the Israeli citizens in poverty, ranking second-most severe, next to Turkey. Poverty in Israel rose from 19.4% in 2017 to 20.4% in 2018 while child poverty rose 2% in those years from 27.1% to 29.1%. Luckily, there are groups looking to reduce child poverty by providing aid to those experiencing hunger. Several non -governmental agencies are working to collect, preserve and distribute food in the country.

Nutrition Among Impoverished Children in Israel

Child poverty in Israel results in children not receiving proper nutrition and reaching their full potential. Welfare services are in place for children who live in extreme poverty in Israel. In 2018, there were 2,934,000 children in Israel. Of these children, poverty affected 14% or 400,000. Families with more children are more likely to experience poverty. In fact, families with an average of five children or more account for two-thirds of child poverty in Israel. Meanwhile, poverty affects 25% of single-family households in Israel. Families who have immigrated from other countries since 1990 account for 16% of all children who are on the welfare support system and about 57.8% of Arab children live in poverty.

State support for child poverty in Israel lacks the nutritional diversity necessary to sustain proper growth and development. About 76.3% of children receiving nutritional support receive only bread and condiments. Meanwhile, reports have determined that 54.5% of children in poverty in Israel have smaller meals than required for proper nutrition or have skipped meals altogether.

The Work of Latet

Latet, meaning “To Give,” works to eliminate child poverty in Israel. Latet has been working to restore dignity and feed families in Israel for more than 20 years.  Latet supervises 180 local organizations in Israel aimed at helping Israeli citizens sustain food supply via means of a food bank and other aid programs that attempt to reduce child poverty in Israel. Latet provides assistance to more than 60,000 families monthly by salvaging food that may have otherwise gone to waste. It collects food from grocery stores, food manufactures and food distributors before sending it to its distribution center. There, the organization sorts, packages and distributes the food to families in need. Latet owns a fleet of trucks for distribution, which occurs to preserve the dignity of families who are able to benefit from the organization’s services.

Latet maintains economic efficiency by maximizing benefits to families. For every one shekel that it attributes to costs of gathering and transporting food, it obtains and distributes nine shekels worth of food. About 19,100 volunteers have provided 452,000 hours of aid that assist child poverty in Israel. Latet has successfully salvaged $25,000,000 in food annually that would have otherwise gone to waste, and distributed it to families in need. Because of the strategic partnership that Latet has with food supply chains in Israel, it has been able to successfully supply much-needed food to help fight child poverty in Israel.

Non-governmental agencies such as Latet are continuing the fight against child poverty in Israel. It is striving to gain support and momentum both in Israel and abroad. The Alternative Poverty Report, which Latet distributes, keeps track of progress and provides different statistics to bring to light the severity of issues of poverty in Israel. The organization has thousands of volunteers and has large public displays to help raise awareness to provide aid to the issue of Israel’s child poverty.

– Carolyn Lyrenmann
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in israelHomelessness in Israel has been a rising problem in the country. Much homelessness in Israel is a byproduct of ongoing poverty that many Israelis face. In 2017, the poverty rate rose from 19.4% to 20.4% in 2018. Unfortunately, children make up a significant proportion of impoverished people in Israel. With Israel having many people on the streets without a place to call home, homeless Israelis are dying. Many homeless people have been killed over the last decade in Israel as well.

Lack of Assistance

One problem facing homelessness in Israel is the country’s failure to prioritize assistance for the homeless. Those who are homeless or struggling to meet their rental payments don’t receive enough benefits from the Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry to make ends meet. Specifically, Social Affairs and the Social Ministry only offer 1,632 shekels a month to these people who meet the requirements for aid. This equals $436 a month. Further, the maximum amount of money these services offer to victims of homelessness and poverty is 1,735 shekels a month. This equals $464 a month for a single person.

These living conditions make it challenging for poor Israelis to stay out of the streets. Moreover, this system helps less than half of homeless people in Israel. The other half don’t qualify because they can’t document that they are homeless. However, it is not easy for people on the street to support their claim easily. Even so, they still need any help they can receive to fight homelessness in Israel.

Fatality Rates Among the Homeless

Many people who find themselves on the street in Israel aren’t just financially hurt but are physically in danger, too. Many homeless people live in close proximity to others in the same situation. Additionally, many lack the funds to purchase treatment when they get sick, which is especially concerning during the pandemic.

As of 2018, 610 homeless people have died on the streets of Israel. Different diseases and viruses can be a major cause of death for those who die on the streets. Homeless people often suffer the same illnesses as others, but their death rate is three times higher. These circumstances can also make homeless people vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Indeed, as of October 2020, Israel has 126,419 cases of COVID-19. So far, 100,357 people have recovered and 993 have died.

Tackling Homelessness in Israel

Homelessness in Israel may seem impossible to eradicate, but many organizations are working to do just that. For example, the Israel Homeless Association (IHA) and shelters for the homeless have become safe havens for homeless people. The Lasova nonprofit organization and the Health Ministry have also provided a “home” to those on the streets. These organizations give them access a safe place to sleep. Around 1,900 people who are victims of homelessness in Israel are receiving aid from the Health Ministry. The IHA targets areas that are most at risk and ignored by the Israeli government. Recently, the collapse of the country’s safety net has caused the IHA charity to put its money into assisting struggling families.

Three years in a row, the IHA has provided clothes for the homeless in Israel registered with the Homeless Offices of Beer Sheva and Eilat. Additionally, the IHA, with the help of other service organizations, helped relocate seven families to a higher quality of living conditions. One hundred thirty kids in the Negev region who are homeless have received over $7,500 worth of toys from the IHA.

The work of organizations like the IHA provides a glimmer of hope among the crisis of homelessness in Israel. During the pandemic, the fact that homelessness puts many people at risk of death and disease is especially significant. Organizations and the Israeli government must work together to tackle this issue.

– Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Israel

In Israel, the battle for gender equality continues to rage. Despite being the third country in the world to have a female head of state, women were forced to sit at the back of the bus as recently as 2018. In the face of gender equality legislation, religious figures continue to promote and enforce gender segregation in public spaces.

Israel, a fairly new country in the Middle East, identifies as a democratic state. The country gained its independence in 1948, passing the Women’s Equal Rights Law in 1951 to ensure gender equality. The Israeli Declaration of Independence states that the nation “…will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” However, the Israeli government has found it difficult to combat gender segregation.

Women’s Rights in Israel Today

Presently, Israel ranks 25th on the Gender Inequality Index. Although the Israeli Declaration of Independence sought to establish gender equality, there has been an increasing demand for enforcing gender segregation in public spaces by Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. There have been instances in which women have been denied access to a public bus for wearing shorts deemed “immodest.” In many situations, if women can access a bus, they are forced to sit in the back. In some universities, women are even forced to drink from separate water fountains.

Many lawsuits in Israel have been filed in the name of gender inequality. Although gender segregation in cemeteries is illegal, the Israeli government and the Ministry of Religious Affairs do not uphold the law. As a result, women sit separately from their male family members and are not permitted to be a part of funeral ceremonies.

Women hold esteemed positions in Israeli society. As of 2017, women comprised 59% of the university student population and  53% of the Ph.D. student population. Israel’s Supreme Court has had three female presidents, with women comprising 54% of judges in Israel as of 2017.

Despite the prevalence of female leaders, female lawmakers have been deemed “indecent” by their religious associates and admonished for wearing sleeveless dresses. Although the majority of college degrees are held by women, women academics are not allowed to instruct ultra-Orthodox men at universities. Female lawyers are seated separately and at the back of the room for training programs. Female army cadets are separated from their male counterparts by partition during graduation ceremonies. However, several organizations are advocating for equal treatment.

The Future of Women’s Rights in Israel

Many organizations are fighting for gender equality in Israel. For example, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) fights gender segregation and religious extremism. IRAC has made great progress in the field of anti-segregation legislation, including filing a class action suit against public radio stations for refusing to put women on-air. IRAC’s work has also lead to a Supreme Court ruling making gender segregation on public transportation illegal.

Founded in 1984, The Israel Women’s Network advocates for gender equality through education and awareness. They are currently advocating against gender segregation in public transportation and gender violence. The Women of the Wall are fighting to secure women’s religious rights to pray at the Western Wall through education, empowerment, and advocacy. When gender equality laws will be upheld, the visions for gender equality can be achieved.

The Future is Equality

As the first woman to serve as president of the Israeli Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch said, “We are commanded to act with tolerance and to promote the protection of human rights.”

The gap between the visions for gender equality and the reality women face is vast. Gender inequality is crucial to the advancement of Israel and the rest of the world, being essential to peace and development. Ultimately, the work of organizations such as IRAC and The Israel Women’s Network continues to empower women and allows Israel to look toward a brighter future.

– Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

UNRWA
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was specifically created to help Palestinian refugees after the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. The Palestinian refugee problem has only grown since its formation, so the U.N. has allowed the agency to continue operating.

Palestinian refugees are unique. Every person who was a resident or a resident’s descendant of what is now Israel all have a legal designation as ‘refugees.’ UNRWA now serves four generations of Palestinian refugees, having grown from serving 750,000 to 5.6 million.

The United States Pulls Funding

The United States pulled its funding from UNRWA in 2018. President Trump cited the reason behind the defunding as the agency’s incompetency. The United States had previously been contributing about $355,000 million of UNWRA’s budget.

The United States’ decision affected refugees who rely on UNRWA’s aid for education, health care, protection and basic human needs like food security. In 2017, reports determined that 39% of Palestinian refugees lived in poverty, and very little effort has occurred to assimilate Palestinians into host communities.

Palestine, Israel and the international community, in general, see the United States’ choice as an effort to delegitimize UNRWA and the 5.6 billion Palestinian refugees it serves. Revoking these generations of Palestinians’ refugee status would take away their right to return to their homeland.

Aftermath of Funding Removal

In 2020, the U.N. extended UNRWA’s mandate to the year 2023. However, UNRWA is still struggling financially. Not only did it appeal to the international community to donate a minimum of $1.4 billion for the yearly budget, but it requested another $14 million for COVID-19 emergency aid.

The UNRWA reported that it can only sustain operations until May 2020 with the added health crisis that COVID-19 brought on. It has only raised one-third of its budget. UNRWA’s director stated that the UNRWA must run on a “month to month basis” enduring the biggest financial instability since its creation.

Pleas for Help

The United States made the suggestion to transition the UNRWA’s responsibilities into the hands of the Arab countries that host Palestinian refugees. However, these nations are struggling to fill their own funding gap. Arab countries are suffering from high poverty rates and an influx of refugees from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

UNRWA has also sought the help of NGOs, such as Islamic Relief USA, to fill the funding gap. This is a faith-based organization that works to raise funds and mobilize volunteers for a range of initiatives including UNRWA. It has been helping Palestinian refugees since 1994. Islamic Relief USA has served 1,077,000 people from 2017 to 2019.

The United States government might have cut off funding to UNRWA as a result of flaws within the agency. It might have hoped to delegitimize the Palestinian right of return. Either way, Palestine’s impoverished people need UNRWA’s support. If UNRWA is not successful in gaining new donors, they will lose their access to education, health care and other necessary securities that are human rights.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr