Justice in Israel

Poverty: Does anyone care?

0 Comments 26 November 2013

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Image: “De fattigas Sverige”, Julius Ejdestam cc: Wikipedia

Poverty: Who Really Cares About It? The Elaluf Committee’s Chance of Success

By Rabbi Idit Lev

Today (26 November), the Elaluf Committee convenes. The committee was appointed by the welfare minister to “combat poverty”. It is not the first committee that the State of Israel has appointed to deal with the matter; the Bachar Committee was appointed in 2005 and the Trajtenberg Committee was appointed in 2011. Their recommendations were never implemented and the number of people living in poverty in Israel continues to grow. This is no mistake – it is policy.

Over the past ten years I’ve seen the State of Israel’s conduct when it comes to people who live in poverty – the results of its policies are the growing number of poor. So too in the most recent budget that it passed, when child benefits were cut, it was promised to the Israeli public that families who live in poverty “will receive compensation” from the state through the allocation of a food security budget. Child benefits were cut and yet no single plan that was supposed to assist families has been launched.

Refusing recommendations from the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty

And here it is again, a new welfare minister, a new committee. In parallel to the new committee, the National Insurance Institute provided recommendations for the Combat Poverty Program and presented them at the Sderot Conference. The welfare minister announced in the media that the committee’s discussions would be open to the public. Representatives of the minister turned down the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty’s suggestion to include people who live in poverty on the committee, but promised that people who live in poverty would be able to observe, and perhaps even address the committee.

And now it’s time to make good on their promises – today the committee will convene for its first discussion, which is meant to be open to the public. In no place on the Welfare Ministry’s website has it been announced that the committee is meeting, where it is meeting or when. It seems that the minister’s promises are baseless. People who live in poverty and others who are not members of the committee will find it very difficult to even follow its discussions.

In the past ten years I’ve learned that people who live in poverty need to be part of every discussion and attempt to reduce the number of poor in Israel, which is the same argument made by the Fourth World Movement. People who live in poverty do not have their voice represented on this committee, and thus they are excluded from the debate surrounding their fate.

The Social Threat Against the Security Threat

I am not optimistic when it comes to the Elaluf Committee’s chances of success. I assume that a security threat to push aside investment in social issues will be found. But moreover – a committee that has no voice from the people who live in poverty will not be able to build a program to help the very population that it purports to assist.

If I were able to influence the work of this committee I would suggest to them to let academics present all the papers that they are very good at writing, and to set out across Israel for a series of hearings, and in those hearings to invite people who live in poverty to talk about the hardships they encounter on the way to improving their situations, and what they think would help. I have no doubt that by combining the knowledge of the people who live in poverty with that of academia, the State of Israel will be able to change its socioeconomic condition. For now, I have great doubt as to whether the State of Israel wishes to change the current condition.

Rabbi Idit Lev.

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