The State of Israel is a rich State with much capability, but it does not succeed in helping its poor people. | s6001044.jpg By aenertia cc: flickr
The poor people expect only the basic things from the state, Jabotinsky’s five “M”s, but his “ideological successors” in the Israeli government are not committed to provide even this. A special article for the Day of Fighting against Poverty, that was commemorated in the Knesset.
Poverty is and was always relative. When I have less then most of my neighbors and/or family, I am poor, when I have more, I am rich. The poverty in a society is measured by its wealth and its capability to give to others.
The Mishna that was edited in the 3rd century, describes a hierarchy of poor people:
“One must not reduce the due of the poor that wander from place to place, Below a Kikor of two Pound coins when 4 Seah of wheat cost a Sela. If he stays, give him the support to stay. If he stays for Shabbat, give him 3 meals. For one that has only 2 meals, he must not take from the soup kitchen. If he has 14 meals, he doesn’t take from the money box, And the money box is brought around in pairs and divided into three parts. If he has 100 Dinar, he does not take the gleanings, the forgotten sheaves, the corner, or the poor tithe. If he has 200 Dinar that is deficient by a Dinar, even if he is given 1000 at once, Indeed, this is taking” Pea tractate 8:7-8.
Today we also have different ranks of poor people, and the State of Israel is grading them. If you have a car you are not entitled to a guaranteed minimal income (unless you work part time and your car is an old one, over 7 years old). People who work and earn low wages are entitled to request help for rent (between 500 – 1500 NIS). Also in the Building ministry office’s site (which is in charge of this issue), It is hard to understand who is entitled to receive help.
As long as a man works and receives guaranteed minimum income (for a family it must meet a minimum wage for the whole family) he is also entitled to more help in the form of a discount in public transportation. But if he starts to earn more and stops getting the allowance he loses also all the benefits.
All the suffering in the world
It has always been difficult to be poor. In Exodus Rabbah it is written that to be poor is the most difficult thing because if you are poor it is as if you suffer all the suffering in the world, and you have been cursed all the curses in Mishne Torah. Our Sages said that if on one side were gathered all the sufferings in the world and on the other side was poverty, poverty would have prevailed. When Job asked God why did he make him suffer so much, God asked him, what do you want more, to suffer or to be poor? Job chose to suffer and not to be poor.
Today, the Knesset will commemorate the Day to Fight Against Poverty, and on this day we (poor people and organizations that fight against poverty) are trying to promote our struggle. The fact that poverty is man’s own doing means men can defeat it. We try to give people who live in poverty a place where they can be heard and say what they think needs to be done in order to better their lives.
In the rights center of Rabbis for Human Rights in Hadera there is a group of women who are struggling to change their lives. Last week we talked about the fight against poverty and asked them to tell us things that would help them, and what they wanted was very modest:
- To raise the allowances according to the raising of the prices.
- Discounts on electricity and waters to people who receive allowances.
- To be able to provide for themselves. Not to work for a subcontractor, social conditions for everyone.
- Public housing.
- Teach parents how to raise their children with financial wisdom, so they will not have the same problems in the future.
- Reduce the prices of food.
- Free medicine.
- Upon starting work, not to immediately lose all allowance.
This conversation brought “Y” to describe her life: “I would like to sleep in a normal home with normal beds, in my home there is not a normal life. Every week I go to Amidar and ask them to come and fix my windows because the rain is coming in and I have to clean it up all the time. Many things are missing: I do not have an oven, I do not have enough with which to live, children need clothes, shoes and many other things. All of my money goes to pay bills and nothing is left for living.”
A vacation from poverty
Their aspirations are not to go on vacation, to buy clothes or a new vehicle. They want to have the minimum for a proper living, or in Jabotinsky’s words: the state has to provide housing, health, teachers, clothes and food. Everyone is entitled to live a life without the fear that he will not have food for tomorrow, that the rain will wet him or that he will need the help of kind people in order to survive.
“A” (who is not working since she hurt her back) said: “If Bibi was here I would ask him to swap places with me for one day and live here on my salary. What does it mean to be rich? To have eyes, teeth, hand and legs. To be healthy is the most important thing”.
The State of Israel is a rich State with much capability, but it does not succeed in helping its poor people. There is no public housing, no free health, no free and proper education, no water, no electricity, no food and clothing for everyone. There are people who have a lot and people who have nothing: no food, no housing, and they cannot afford medical treatments or other basic needs.
Now is the time that we, as a society, as a state, will see to it that no one will sleep on the streets, that there will not be hungry people and that people can live in dignity even if they are poor.