Wednesday, August 30, 2006

25% of Israelis Living Below Poverty Level Now

Update: Israel's 2007 Budget announced; Deficit in wake of war will climb to NIS 3.6 billion (about $826 million USD). That's a 3.3% larger deficit than originally thought would result in the wake of this Summer of Rocket Rain.

According to the annual poverty report released on Wednesday by Director General of the National Insurance Institute (NII) Yigal Ben Shalom, 26.2% of Israelis (over 1.6 million people) were below the poverty line in 2005.

This is before there were over a million people displaced from their homes during the Katyusha Rocket Rain this summer. It also represents a 1.7% jump from 24.5% in 2004. IOW, there was a trend in place, even before the Katyusha Rocket Rain. The trend has been in place for several years, spiking of course, when the "new intifada" exploded in 2000 and dropping even more steadily when 9/11 impacted the world economy a year later, in 2001.

The Israeli Annual Report also found that:

  • 769,000 children live below the poverty line, an increase of 55,000 from 2004 - over 35% of the children in Israel.

  • One out of four families in Israel was below the poverty line, for a total of 410,000 families.

  • In families with at least four children, the poverty rate rose to 58.1% from 54.7% in 2004, while 177,000 families in which one parent earned an income were defined as poor.

  • One third of public and private sector employees were below the poverty line.

The report defined "below the poverty line" as an income of less than 1,868 NIS per person per month. (this is about US$450/month but check the currency converter for the Israeli Sheckel (NIS) versus US dollar as of today).

The fact that over a million Israelis were displaced, that half of them spent more than a MONTH in a shelter, with nothing, only to find what little they'd left behind was utterly destroyed, is just salt in the wounds of the ongoing struggle against poverty. Israel's economy isn't dropping quickly but is slowly and steadily heading towards such a high level of poverty, Israel runs the risk of falling from the "stature" of a being a First World Country into the Third World arena--for purely economic reasons.

Rich Jews? Yeah, I don't think so, not when you're homeless and starving and half of your country has just gone up in flames or been rocketted into rubble. But the world only thought THAT happened in Lebanon, right?

How Can You Help?

Either send money or help get the word out by linking to this blog, putting something on your own blog or just emailing your friends and family telling them about the needs of the Israeli people and The Land (see JNF below) and the following methods for contributing. If you don't have money to donate, that's okay. Your help getting the word out to people who do have money to spare is significant, too! Here're some ideas for some of the many areas of Israeli economy needing financial assistance to keep doing their Great Works.

Founded over a hundred years ago by American women trying to help Jewish women/children in Israel who were starving, getting no medical attention and found themselves stranded on the street without support or means of obtaining an income (don't forget, turn of the century, women had no rights to much of anything anywhere in the world, this is PRE-suffragette era).

Hadassah started out as an almost underground of women helping women, but has turned into more of a "Florence Nightingale" organization. You can learn more about Hadassah hospitals and medical breakthroughs (or special sponsorship scholarships and grants) by visiting the Israeli-based site for Hadassah: Today, Hadassah does extraordinary work in the medical fields, helping not only Jews but anyone who needs medical assistance and comes to their doors. In fact, many "special case" patients have been funded and sponsored (Bedouin, Palestinian, Lebanese--yeah, Israel's "enemies" come to Hadassah's doors and are given a free ride). More than half of all medical assistance in Israel is funded or provided by Hadassah. Most of Hadassah's funding comes from American women (I'm a lifetime member--it was a gift from my mother when I was 16 and it's a common mother-to-daughter gift in America now).

In August of 2006 Hadassah took a "mission" to Israel to offer hands and feet kind of help. Be sure to watch some of the Mission to Israel videos or just click on the donate now link in the popup window. (They have a popup specifically for current fundraising efforts so "allow" the popup if your browser blocks as a rule) In the US, there's really not much "to" Hadassah beyond its fundraising efforts. Hadassah "meetings" are a social gathering or "bake sale" event. Of course, Hadassah has a long history of having a bake sale to buy a tank, build a hospital, outfit a new infantry unit--you know, "women stuff." :-)

Friends of Israeli Firefighters has been working with firefighters in NY to train and outfit Israel's fledgling firefighter organization. After 50 years of planting trees, the Forest of the Gallillee was thriving with flora, fauna and natural beauty.

The Katyusha Rocket Rain has utterly destroyed thousands of acres of forest which will take another 50 years--or more--to rebound. Cost of regenerating damaged areas could exceed NIS 75 million over next two years. Israel's firefighters struggled to battle the fires while also trying to save human lives and both man and machine wore out far too soon to save the Forests of the Galilee. To help rebuild the depleted resources of the Israeli Fire Dept. (or get them better-equipped than you see here!!) send money to Friends Of Israeli Firefighters:

If you want to donate money to plant trees, send money to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) which handles the "Save the Environment" efforts in Israel. American children working through the JNF have planted millions and millions (yeah, exaggerating but at least 100,000 in 50 years) of trees to date! They'll even send you a certificate telling you where "your" tree has been planted (not an exaggeration - it's one of the most fun things for a kid to get in the mail, addressed to them).

Help JNF Plant a Tree in Israel.

The Jewish Agency
This is an international non-profit organization that acts as a liasion between Israel and Jews around the world (in the Diaspora). The Jewish Agency is best known for facilitating the immigration of Jews from the Diaspora to Israel but the Jewish Agency also has taken a strong lead in the current effort to funnel humanitarian aid to Israel outside the "red tape" loop of international "efforts." The site offers languages besides English:

Lastly but not least, the International Fellowship of Christians & Jews (IFCJ) has been doing some phenomenal cutting of red tape. While this group's "status" or "allegiance" might be argued, debated and found fault with by both Christians and Jews in the US, the fact is, IFCJ has been operating in Israel and been nearly as good a "funnel" of money and liasion as the Jewish Agency has been in some situations where "Jewish Agency" gets doors slammed instead of opened. The IFCJ definitely has some controversial issues, but they also are doing some Good Works. Consider helping them--it's their ads you see on FOX News and banner'ed on the JERUSALEM POST web site everywhere. Just click one of them or go to:

If you cannot spare any money to send anywhere, please link to this blog, repost this information on your own blog or just send out email to your friends who do have money to make charitable donations. If you have the money, please send a donation to one or more of these organizations (These groups are all tax-exempt donation status).

...unless you prefer to support Hezbollah. Then you don't have to do a thing. They are already getting about $3 billion combined from US, Australia and other sources--all of it in HUMANITARIAN aid that the Lebanese people will never see unless or until they throw Hezbollah out of their government. Nasrallah will either hand out small amounts of aid in front of cameras and sell the rest for new arms or simply sell it all...that's how TERRORISTS work. Steal from the mouths and hearts of the human shields behind whom they hide.



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