An article in Haaretz was published on August 29th in response to a “Freedom of Information Act” request filed by Rabbis for Human Rights coupled with months of assistance trying to recoup the cost of bail for a struggling Ethiopian family.
On Sunday [August 21st, 2016], a woman arrived at our Hadera Rights Center. She works as a kindergarten aide. This month she is on vacation, not of her own choice, but because all kindergartens are closed. Since she gets paid per hour of work (known as an hourly employee), she does not get a salary for this month. She had hoped to take advantage of these vacation days in order to run some errands. However:
Without documents from these offices, she cannot run her other errands. After we helped her arrange a schedule for all her tasks, she said: “When they [these governmental offices] come back from their break, I will be back at work, and won’t be able to take off vacation days so as to go to them.”
Hourly employees may take off paid vacation days only under specific conditions, and if they are living in poor conditions, every vacation day without pay is problematic for them. Moreover, hourly employees have difficulty taking vacation days at the timing they require because of their weak status at their jobs. Often, they are very limited in their options. Thus, our kindergarten aide is in a “catch-22.”
A simple solution would be that the bureaucratic offices of public and governmental bodies who address the needs of the public, especially of those who live in poverty, would work in the afternoon hours at least part of the week, so that the public could reach them after their work day. In contrast to the stereotype, most of those who live in poverty are employed, and most of those employed work from the morning to the afternoon. Opening various institutions in the afternoon would benefit us all, but for those living in poverty, this is especially crucial.
Rabbi Idit Lev
On Thursday August 11 2016, the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty came out to demonstrate in front of the Prime Minister’s offices in a demand to put the fight against poverty on the agenda of the proposed 2017-2019 State budget. About sixty demonstrators and two Knesset members were present. Several participants expressed the demands of those living in poverty.
Achievements in the field of urban renewal are clear with the passing of a new law in early August 2016 establishing a government body for urban renewal.
The amendments to the Guaranteed Income law, passed last week by the Labor, Welfare and Health committee, will not have a significant impact on single mothers who wish to work and pull her family out of poverty. Our concern is that the law – although containing minor positive elements – will work to disband public outcry around the difficulties of low-income single mothers. It is not everyday that the Knesset discusses this difficult issue, and the fact that a law impacting this population passed without suggesting a comprehansive solution to single mothers is a lost opportunity.
That said, the language of the law did improve due to the committed work of social justice organizations, women’s organization and involved MKs. Up until now, a woman receiving guaranteed income who started to work, under certain conditions, would lose her eligibility for various crucial accompanying benefits. The current law now protects a specific group of single mothers from losing their social rights. Nevertheless, the need for more signficant reform arises from the reality on the ground, calling us to heed the vision of Maimonides that the highest form of justice allow those living in poverty to support themselves so that “he need no longer be dependent upon others.”
PRESS RELEASE | JULY 11 2016
The Forum for Public Housing presents Public Housing Day at the Knesset: Marking the Crisis of the Million
Invitation to cover: Public Housing Day in the Knesset on July 12 2016 will be led by MKs Orli Levy Abekasis, Dov Hanin, Stav Shafir, Ilan Gilon, Itzik Shmuli, Eli Cohen and Omer Bar Lev Continue Reading
RHR is proud to continue our tradition for over 15 years of providing quality human rights programing for rabbis participating in seminars at the Shalom Hartman Institute. This year we have two offerings:
The Insolvency Law will work against those living in poverty while providing preferrential treatment for the more established class
Rabbis for Human Right’s position paper: A new law regarding the collection of debts will reinforce the strengthening of the wealthy class and the weakening of the disadvantaged. As a result of the law, small debt owners will be channeled to traditional debt collection, known for being quite strict, while larger debt owners will be channeled to a debt collection system with a focus on debt rehabilitation. The position paper has been sent to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
Urban renewal plans are underway at an unprecedented scale in Israel today. Currently, forty thousand housing units in Haifa are being planned, mostly in the more vulnerable neighborhoods of the city. An association of residents with the help of RHR and the municipality of Haifa’s west welfare department have pinpointed a number of problematic factors within the plans, and offered solutions with little to no budgetory impact [Hebrew] .
Below is an overview of these problematic urban renewal factors as compiled by the team of residents and professional:
At the Macro level:
Upgrading a neighborhood from older buildings to newer ones is usually viewed as a blessing. However, such upgrades bring with them additional fees in the price of housing (city taxes and building maintanence payments) which often results in the pricing out of the poorer populations from their neighborhoods. This means that poorer populations will be pushed farther from their social surroundings and their places of work. If this process continues to occur, it leads to the creation of more and more urban spaces that are homogenous in terms of financial status. This leads to a socio-economic segregation within the areas. These types of changes are known around the world to create serious social issues, and conflict with current best practices and consensus in western nations regarding the creation a social diversity within neighborhoods as they are developed. Diversified apartment sizes along with other mechanisms can provide a solution to economic segregation without stopping the urban renewal plans.
At the micro level:
Urban renewal plans include residents moving apartments. These moves always are uncomfortable, but to certain populations such as the elderly, disabled, or those who are caring for a family member in such a situation, these changes can be far more harmful than simple discomfort – especially when there are alternative options.
Sometimes urban renewal includes up to three moves. 1. A move to replace housing when your original building is being destroyed and the new one is being built. 2. Moving into the new building. 3. Occasionally, resident discovers that they are unable to uphold the housing payments of the renewed neighborhood and are forced to move again, this time away from the neighborhood.
The third type of move is the most critical: As we stated, there are people who would have a very difficult time moving apartments. This holds true for the transition period and afterwards. We must remember that after the renewal, many of these people will on the one hand find it difficult to withstand the price rise but will also find it difficult to move, for example if they need to be close to certain services, family and\ or supportive friends.
For these people, according to the resident representative’s plan, solutions can be found by adding permits for extra housing units in the project, designed for rental, where part of the collected rent goes to the investor and part goes to subsidize any additional housing costs. This will not have impact on the state or the municipal budget.
Even the first two moves can be made into one. There should be an attempt to first complete the building of the new units, and then the moving of the residents, as opposed to moving first, and then building. The idea is to first build a new building on public space somewhere, and then move the residents to the new building. After this, the old building is destroyed and used as public space (community garden, community center etc). This is how you can reduce the number of moves needed, especially for the old, sick and disabled.
Lack of knowledge and assistance:
In city renewal plans the state is usually just a background figure. It is the investors, lawyers and housing contracters who try to sign the residents up with different deals including different conditions, all without due regulation. This privilege provided to the investors makes the residents vulnerable for exploitation- especially true for those with less financial means who are lacking capital and sometimes the needed knowledge and education to navigate the situation. Therefore the power imbalance between them and the real estate investors is quite pointed. Because of this, it is necessary to have urban renewal plans supported by the government and municipalities which will allow the residents to consult with experts in the fields of law and planning, as well as with social and community workers who can help residents organize and understand the precise issues needing special attention.
What has already been done:
The residents from western Haifa have been contacting the municipality and MKs for the last several months. The height of these attempts was on May 29th, 2016, in the Neve David community center, when the Knesset committee for urban renewal was hosted by activists from Haifa’s westernm neighbrohoods, who are assisted by RHR.
MK Eli Cohen together with MKs Orli Levy Abekasis, Yossi Yona, Chaim Yellin, Roi Folkman and entering coalition head David Bitton heard a professional review of the situation by activists of Neve David, Kiryat Eliyahu and Kiryat Eliezer regarding the socio-cultural barriers located in moving, then building projects, about potential problems in current urban renewal projects, and the available alternatives, some of which are not needing budgetary changes.
Haifa vice mayor Hedva Almog praised the professionalism of the representatives of the neighborhoods, and proclaimed that she is committed to cooperation with the representatives, and utilising the new knowledge gained into the process of urban renewals.
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