Israel is a country known for its wide ethics and religious diversity. However, it has one of the highest rates of poverty among developed countries. In fact, about 1.8 million people in Israel live in poverty, and that number rose from 19.4% of the population in 2017 to 20.4% in 2018. Of the 1.8 million people, 874,000 are children. Child poverty grew by 50% between 2008 and 2005 in Israel, and while the poverty rate has remained largely the same since 2005, Israel still has one of the highest rates of poverty in the developed world. With the amount of Israelites in poverty steadily increasing over the years, there are many ways to address the growing number of families and children living in poverty in Israel through various organizations and targeted relief efforts.
Statistics About Poverty in Israel
The socioeconomic divide is steadily increasing in Israel, with the divide between wealthy and low-income neighborhoods becoming more drastic. Additionally, previous legislative measures did not address poverty in the long term, and focused more on tax cuts rather than implementing social welfare programs that help poverty on a systemic level. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Anna Rajagopal, a student at Austin University and a Jewish and multiethnic educator, pointed out that “getting diaspora jews involved in donations, involved in monetary programs, involved in helping with financial aid and financial needs” is the best way to address poverty within smaller groups.
Rajagopal works to spread awareness about various issues plaguing Israelites and the Jewish community, such as anti-semitism and poverty. She noted that Orthodox Jews and Arabs are the ones poverty most disproportionately affects, and keeping their interests in mind is important for poverty alleviation efforts. In fact, 47% of the Arab population in Israel live in poverty, along with 45% of Orthodox households. Rajagopal also noted that poverty in Israel most often affects minorities and communities of color.
Movements and NGOs Targeting Poverty
Alongside these points, grassroots work has occurred to alleviate poverty in Israel by providing medical care, proper housing and other basic needs. One such organization working to provide aid is the Latet organization, which works to combat food insecurity among vulnerable groups, like the elderly, through a food bank and various financial assistance programs. Alongside these efforts, Latet has created youth programs to foster a sense of community. Its advocacy efforts are helping many poor people in Israel find support while spreading awareness of this issue to other countries.
Lastly, Rajagopal mentioned a more grassroots form of aid through a woman named Bracha Kappach, an Israelite woman who has worked towards poverty reduction efforts in Israel for the past 40 years. She operates on a small scale and opens her home to anybody who needs food or other financial assistance.
With this increasing awareness of Israel’s precarious situation, the government is working to increase the employment rate and make changes to the existing welfare program so that laborers can find jobs. Rajagopal’s insight into how the Israeli government can properly address poverty also includes involving multiethnic Jews in the conversation, because others often forget and villainize them when it comes to their portrayal in the media. “In fitting needs, there are ways to do it in which alienation wouldn’t be the forefront,” Rajagopal says. She believes that incorporating religious efforts will provide unity and highlight more poverty reduction efforts.
Israel remains entangled in a conflict with Palestine, which has shifted the focus away from poverty reduction for the time being. As such, organizations and grassroots movements like Haverim and Latet, and the work of individuals such as Kappach are primarily focusing on redirecting efforts towards helping the poor, and are especially important for providing essential aid and supplies for the most vulnerable parts of the population. These efforts in Israel prove that targeted aid and addressing the sociopolitical and religious identities of the Israeli and Jewish populations are essential to mitigating poverty in Israel in the long run.
– Xenia Gonikberg