With Poverty Rising in Israel, The Joshua Fund to Open Eighth Storefront

By Joel C. Rosenberg

Most news in Israel these days concerns Iran, Hezbollah’s takeover of Lebanon, and protest movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan. But in January, two columns in Israeli newspapers caught my eye. One, written by the head of a liberal Jewish non-profit organization in Tel Aviv, was headlined: “Israel’s greatest threat is not security, it's poverty.” The second, written by Moshe Arens, a right-of-center former Israeli Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was entitled, “Poverty amidst plenty: We should examine the causes of the growing economic inequality that characterizes Israeli society at this time.”

Interestingly, both authors – despite vastly different backgrounds – agreed: Yes, Israel’s economy is growing faster than any other country in the industrialized world, but not everyone is benefitting. Poverty in Israel is rising, yet with so much of the government’s budget going towards national security, social welfare budgets are shrinking and many families are really struggling.

  • Fully 25 percent of Israelis live under the poverty level
    (which is less than $900 for a family of four per month), up from 23.7% in 2008.
  • In 2009, 123,000 more Israelis fell into poverty, according to the most
    recent government statistics.
  • Roughly 1-in-3 children live in poverty in Israel, up 66,700 since 2008.
  • 70% of those who earn only minimum wage in Israel are women.
  • Ultra-Orthodox and Arab families, on average, are also more likely than secular Jewish Israelis to live in poverty,mainly because they tend to have significantly more children.
  • Of the 240,000 Holocaust Survivors who live in Israel today, 40 percent live in poverty.

Compounding the problem: food prices in Israel are rising significantly.

  • Canola Oil prices rose 23% in January
  • Sugar rose 40%
  • Flour/Semolina rose 19%
  • Buck Wheat shot up 106%
  • Jam rose 15%
  • Tuna rose 3.3%

In that context, then, I’m glad to announce that The Joshua Fund is helping establish the eighth food distribution center (“storefront”) in Israel in the last 14 months. Lord willing, it will be open by April, allowing us to serve hundreds more needy Jews and Arabs. Several more storefronts are being planned. Because the work load is increasing, we’re also glad to announce we’ve hired another full-time Israeli to work in our warehouse and deliver food throughout the country. Thank you for your prayers and generous investment in this important work. It’s never been more important.

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