I can offer several reasons why we left Perth in Western Australia to come and live in Israel, for to many young men and women living in Israel, Australia is nothing short of Utopia.
Mind you, Australia has a lot to offer. Relatively easy lifestyle where political differences are almost non-existent, beautiful beaches, lots of active sports and so on. It’s really a house-and-garden society where home entertainment is the preferred option for a large section of the communities around the country.
But, if you’re Jewish and live in Perth, it’s another story!
There are approximately 120,000 Jews living in Australia. About 100,00 live in Victoria and New South Wales, the greater majority in Melbourne and Sydney. But in Perth, just 7,000. As you can imagine, Jewish communal life is quite insignificant considering the overall population of Perth is around 2.6 million people.
We love Jewish traditions where family life becomes a focal point, notably at meal-times. Jewish history gives us a sense of pride and when the State of Israel was founded in 1948 we loved to participate in Zionist activities in Perth. It drew us closer and closer to Israel.
Shabbat is Unique in Israel.
Life in Israel is never dull. At times, when political differences are so extreme we feel the country will implode, but somehow we always manage to lurch from crisis to crisis and stabilize in one form or another.
Yet, the exception to the rule is Shabbat, when frayed tempers cool down and the spirit of being Jewish overpowers individual opinions. It’s quite unique.
This is where we live, in Kfar Saba, a city of around 100,000 people, a few kilometres north-east of Tel Aviv. This is the view from our apartment.
So green, so peaceful. But despite the desert-like climate we experience for many months each year, as you travel around the country and see such healthy growth of trees and gardens, it’s hard to imagine that just 75 years ago most of the country was almost a desert.
What has been achieved in that short space of time is nothing short of a miracle!
But look hard at our problems. We need a miracle to resolve most of them, if not all of them.
Who lives in Israel?
Life in Israel is challenging and many of the problems seem insurmountable. Clearly, this is the main reason why so many young people consider leaving Israel to settle in other parts of the world.
Let’s examine some of the facts. Immigration to Israel in 2022 was 70,000, up from 28,600 the previous year. An impressive result, but of this major increase 52,000 were from Russia and Ukraine. Of this total some 27,000 were under the age of 24 years.
Now, let’s look at the current make-up of ages in Israel:
Age up 14 years, 28%. From 15 to 64 years, 62%. From 65 years and over, 10%.
It is clear from these figures that the future of Israel will rely primarily on the workforce where immigration is escalating, especially younger people who are hurting the most. They are suffering from the high cost of living and the exhorbitant rental rates, coupled with a shortage of housing.
We can readily understand the brain drain and the reasons for it.
I recall an incident back in 1984 when I came to Israel for a visit. It was at the time of hyperinflation when the rate of inflation galloped to well over 400% as a result of soaring oil prices.
As I came into the city by taxi, I asked the young driver what he did to subsidise his income. “I’m studying economics at university,” he replied, so I took the opportunity to ask him how he would fix the economy.
“I would take a trip to Mahane Yehuda and grab the guy running the stall at the entrance by the scruff of the neck, throw him into the Knesset and say FIX IT!!!”
A very practical solution. Those traders in the markets understand money better than the top economists in the world. Perhaps this is just what we need right now. People who can work, earn a living and help to balance our economy to prevent the best part of our young men and women from leaving.
I can just hear the top brass retorting that the economy of Israel is one of the best in the world, even though big investors are withdrawing funds at an alarming rate.
If anybody out there claims that Israel’s biggest problem is the vexing Palestinian problem, let them come here and talk to the young men and women workers who have just graduated from 2 to 3 years service in the army.