Avi Nofech
"democracy and free trade are the only way to peace"

Emigration is a greater risk than the conflict

There is a law in Israel that forces Israelis to emigrate.

It is the law that forbids living outside the boundaries of a yishuv (city, town, moshav, kibbutz, village) to anyone who is not a farmer.

Some very inventive Israelis found a way to circumvent this law. There is a family who wanted to build a home just some 50 meters outside the boundary of their town. But they did not farm.

So their solution was: they opened a horse farm. The husband bought a horse drawn wagon and began offering tourists old style wagon tours, appropriately dressed in best 19th century rural fashion. He also gave riding lessons.

So it went for several years until the authorities were satisfied they were genuine farmers.

Then the horses were sold, and the family remained with what they always wanted: a single family home some distance away from the city noise and traffic.

Most Israelis would not have the time and the energy to achieve this Israeli version of the American dream. If they are lucky, they own their apartments in the crowded city.

But if they are not so lucky and have to rent, then they have a problem. The rising rent is getting closer and closer to their total earnings.

Some of the retired who do not own an apartment are already beyond the point when renting was still possible and out in the street.

The other vulnerable group are the young whose earnings are below average.

But the skilled and mobile young have an escape route that the old don’t have: they can emigrate. A destination of choice is Canada. Renting in Canada is not expensive (I am not talking about the huge cities Toronto and Montreal, which for all I know might be just as bad for renters as Tel Aviv).

But luckily Canada is some 10,000 times larger in area than these two metropolises taken together.

So there are plenty of places where people can rent without breaking their bank account.

Housing in Canada is so plentiful because of freedom. Companies can buy land and build single family neighborhoods anywhere they want. It does not have to be in the city. Some people buy acreages and build or buy ready their own homes. This is also allowed outside of city limits.

Often Israelis think they are destined to live in overcrowded cities because Israel is a small country.

Even though most Israelis do not know this, it is not the shortage of land that prevents them from owning a single family home, it is the shortage of freedom!

Negev is just as good for building single family homes with palm trees as is South California. But it stands empty because of Israeli law.

Israelis would have what it takes to fight for their right to live where they want, if only they knew it is possible. But often Israelis visit the big cities like NYC or Paris or Toronto and see the same urban life they already know in Tel Aviv. They don’t get to see people living on acreages in Canada.

There is an old tradition of Jews being urban, caused by antisemitic laws in the past. Not many Israeli Jews experienced living on land they own themselves. Israeli experience with land was inextricably linked to collective farming.

But for most Canadians and Americans, land is not about farming. It is about where their home is.

Israel is in competition with North America whether Israel wants it or not. The competition is for quality of life. If Israel loses, the young and the bright will move to North America.

But Israel is hampered with a protectionist economic system, which has no chance competing against the free market economies of Canada and the US.

There are many thousands of little stores in Israel where even if the buyer bewares, it does not always help. They do not display printed prices, there are no barcodes, if the thing you bought breaks down you are out of luck. Sometimes they sell second rate goods as if they were first rate.

In the distant past, there were little stores in Canada too. But free trade brought about the Real Canadian Superstore and Walmart, and the little stores are now all gone. There is no need to bargain with anyone, and anything can be returned if one is not satisfied.

But in Israel, shoddy little stores are protected from competition. There is no Walmart Israel. Anyone who bought a bicycle in Israel knows how you get a flat tire every week or two, because the rubber they are made of is third grade. Anyone who bought headphones in Israel knows how sometimes the music stops playing the moment you put the phone in your pocket.

The reason for this is that the audio jack of the headphones was not made to correct standards, so when the clothes push on it, the connection breaks. The stores that sell them are selling factory seconds without telling the customer.

For real estate, Israelis are a captive market. They are being held captive in cities and towns and not allowed to escape to the countryside.

It is like this: either Israel adopts free market reforms and free trade, or Israel will be gradually losing its young people to emigration.

About the Author
I was a lecturer in mathematics in Israel and in Canada and now teach part time at Grant MacEwan University and work on a project in mathematical physics. As for hobbies, it is skiing. I can do the black diamond and my ambition is to do the double black diamond.