Affluent Israel

We were driving along one of the main avenues of Netanya between rows of tall palm trees in the sunshine and my wife turned to me and said “aren’t we lucky.” To which I replied “lucky and good.” After all I think we deserve this lifestyle in our own Jewish State. We were driving to the new mall at Poleg called “Kanion Ir Yamim” which roughly translated means Sea City Mall . This is a brand new mall, just opened, that is very modern and airy. The shops are very chic and my wife had to buy a skirt and top. Then we sat in the sunshine and had a cup of tea and coffee. The affluence of Israel was apparent, both in the conspicuous consumption and the well-dressed women. It is clear that Israel is a success story, with literally dozens of high-rises being built around this new area of Netanya called Ir Yamim.

From there we drove a few minutes to the industrial zone, to the new Ikea store. The old one burnt down last year, noone knows why, but it was said to have been an electrical short circuit in the ceiling. Now it has arisen from the ashes, as a new and bigger version. The car park and the store were packed with people on a weekday, including many Arabs, and we wandered around looking at the new shiny goods. Then we had a wholesome lunch in their cafeteria before heading home. Nearby is the new Kika store, very similar, but Austrian.

Netanya is in a long-term expansion phase, with a projected population of 200,000 by 2020. There are three new high rises in the city center and the whole downtown area, including the main square, is torn up where they are putting in new paving, lighting and a new fountain. After that is finished, hopefully by the summer, Netanya will be a much bigger tourist attraction. We already have two new large hotels, Ramada and Island, and more on the way. There is a large new stadium and new roads and bridges. Altogether a measure of the success of the Jewish state. So whereas everyone keeps mumbling about the treatment of the Palestinians, who are really just a footnote to history, and the problem with the Iranians, Israel just keeps getting bigger and better.

Sure there are problems, who doesn’t have problems, in the UK they have binge-drinking and riots, in France they have Muslim killers on the loose. Only the US is comparable and it is not doing as well economically as Israel. Israel’s GDP per capita is now up to ca. $32,000 (growth rate 4.8%), while the US is $48,000 (1.5%), the UK is $39,000 (1.1%) and the EU $35,000 (1.6%), while Egypt and Syria are less than $3,000 (1.2 and -2%). BUt, Israel has a large gap between the rich and poor. However, according to the just released 2011 Report of the Bank of Israel by its Chief Stanley Fischer the Israel economy is in great shape and the large income gap between rich and poor is not increasing. So see you here soon (PS. It does help to learn Hebrew before you come).

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.