Should Israelis stop bragging about Israel?

As a Jew of the Diaspora, I have always been loyal and faithful to Israel, right or wrong.

As the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once said: «The trenches are not the place to debate politics”. And in one way or another Israel has been fighting and continues to fight in the trenches since 1948.

And even if Israel had not been in the trenches, my love of and respect for the country and its inhabitants is unqualified and unconditional.

I take pride in the facts that the country has a strong and vibrant economy, marvelous scientific achievements and an unconditional humanitarian compassion which it shows for its enemies and members of its enemy societies who are sick, wounded or simply in need of medical care as well as for communities struck by natural disasters.

Whatever criticisms of the country and its peoples I may have from time to time, I keep it to myself and keep my discussions of these issues in the family, so to speak.

There is however one issue that has been bothering me for quite a while and I think it ought to be addressed, sooner rather than later, in fact, addressed urgently.

The issue is the extent of child poverty in Israel.

Around every Jewish holiday, and often enough in between, I keep getting notices from a number of Israeli charitable organizations seeking donations so that the poor Israeli children will have a good meal so that she or he will not go to bed hungry.

The latest two I received are from Meir Panim whose mandate is “Fighting Poverty in Israel”.

As a matter of fact, its latest electronic brochure seeks donations is for the purpose of alleviating child poverty in Israel with the motto “$1 a Day to Feed a Child”.

The brochure then goes on to state: “2 out of every 5 children in Israel go to bed hungry. We need your help”.

The brochure goes on to state: “Today, two out of every five children in Israel go to bed hungry. Their growth is stunted without access to food containing sufficient vitamins and minerals. Many do not attend school because of exhaustion or illness. And if they do, they often cannot concentrate. These children are Israel’s future…Our mission is to alleviate the harmful effects of poverty on thousands of families across Israel…When friends like you partner with us, we can meet this urgent need   and ensure no child goes to bed hungry.” (Italics mine)

If my math is correct, the ratio 2 out of every 5 amounts to 40% of the children of Israel.

Personally, I consider it extremely unconscionable for the government of Israel to abandon 40% of its children to the miseries described above and to their long term consequences.

I further consider the government and the country to lack self-respect when the welfare of every 40 out of 100 children of the nation has to be provided through  donations from the Diaspora.

To the best of my knowledge, I know of no country with a sophisticated, wealthy and strong economy such as Israel that provides for its children by canvassing for donations abroad .

I consider the country’s and more specifically the state’s failure to provide properly for all its children   to be a fundamental breach of these children’s citizenship rights to be treated respectfully and to be provided properly for their need, where the parents, for whatever reason(s) are unable to do so. Failure to do that amounts to  a crime against these children’s humanity.

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics just reported that the country has the highest birthrate in the Western world with an average of 3.11 children per family.

This statistic may be a cause of celebration among a certain segment of the Israeli Jews concerned with the prospect of their annual fertility rates being overtaken by that of Israeli Arabs in what they conceive to be the battle of the cradles for the future of the country as a Jewish state.

The message which I get from the fertility rate is a sad one. More specifically, the fertility rate among the Israeli Jews is the highest in Haredi towns where the incomes of families, despite the most generous financial help of the state compared to other needy segments of the population, are not quite sufficient to look after their large numbers of children.

To put it bluntly, the current demographic profile of the high fertility rate among the poorer segment of the Israeli society is more likely than not to increase further the percentage of children going to bed hungry, suffering from the attendant short and long term negative consequences for themselves personally, for the country including for the IDF, the guarantor of Israel’s continued existence to the end of times.

It is high time for the Israelis to open their eyes to the tragedy that has been and continues to play under their very noses and for them in turn to wake up and shake up the government which in its capitalist stupor has been acting as a poor under-developed country at the expense of the 40 % of the country’s children and start seriously mend its cruel ways of treating them on an urgent basis.

In the meantime, I leave it to you, the readers, to answer the question as to whether the government of Israel ought to be bragging about its economic successes and international humanitarianism.

For my part, I think it bragged about the country rightly and long enough.

Charity and humanitarianism starts at home. It is now high time for Israel to stop bragging and devote its energies to save the nation’s children to whom the country owes  among other things a sacred fiduciary duty of insuring their well-being.

About the Author
Doğan Akman was born and schooled in Istanbul, Turkey. Upon his graduation from Lycee St. Michel, he immigrated to Canada with his family. In Canada, he taught university in sociology-criminology and social welfare policy and published some articles in criminology journals After a stint as a Judge of the Provincial Court (criminal and family divisions) of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, he joined the Federal Department of Justice working first as a Crown prosecutor, and then switching to civil litigation and specialising in aboriginal law. Since his retirement he has published articles in Sephardic Horizons and e-Sefarad and in an anthology edited by Rifat Bali titled This is My New Homeland and published in Istanbul.
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