Israel’s Hungry Children

I haven’t blogged much lately. Truth be told, I don’t tend to blog unless there is something I really need to say. So, when a friend posted a heartbreaking story on her Facebook feed last week, I took notice. A one-year old child has resorting to stealing the formula bottle from her three month old brother’s mouth, because she is starving. This family of five living here, in Israel, doesn’t have enough money for formula to feed both babies.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, another heartbreaking post in one of the Mommy groups that I’m a member of on Facebook. This story about a gan in Israel, where there are a number of children whose parents cannot afford the hot lunch catering. Those children are forced to sit at a separate table, where they are fed white bread with chocolate spread and water. At all the other tables at the gan, the rest of the children sit down to hot meals of chicken and meat, vegetables, pasta and couscous.

How, on earth, is that allowed to happen?

Lately, all I seem to hear about is how Israel has made it on all of these awesome lists. Apparently, Israeli’s are ranked amongst the happiest people in the Western World. And, when it comes to our prowess in the high-tech department, well, Israel is now known as “the startup nation.”  You know we’ve hit the big time when Ashton Kutcher starts looking for an office in Tel Aviv, amid whispered promises of potential investments in some of the thousands of high-tech start ups this Country has to offer. Also, Israel ranked 25th in a list of 30 great places to be a Mother in the World.

Well, it’s time to take a good hard look at another, more sobering milestone that involves our great Country. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Israel has placed first place in poverty rate amongst developed nations.  According to the report published just last week, one in five Israelis and one in three Israeli children lives in poverty. And the gap between Israel’s rich and Israel’s poor is just widening day by day.

One in three Israeli children lives in poverty. One in three Israeli children lives in poverty! How on earth are we the  happiest people on the planet when one in three Israeli children lives in poverty?

And, I just cannot stop thinking about how that number will rise dramatically once Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s proposed budget goes into effect. Numbers are not my strong suite, but what I do understand is a grocery bill. 18% VAT on a 1,000 shekel food bill is 180 shekels in taxes. For many, that’s the equivalent of an entire basket of groceries that we are paying just in taxes.

That’s the equivalent of a package of diapers and a can of formula. A couple of liters of milk, some cottage cheese, a bag of apples, and yogurts. That’s bread and spreads for two weeks worth of school lunches.

It’s time we stop patting ourselves on the back for all of the technological milestones our nation has accomplished, and start working harder on finding a solution to poverty in Israel.

I know I certainly don’t feel proud about being a Mother living in one of the “greatest places in the World to be a Mother,” when one in three Israeli children are starving.



About the Author
Shira Zwebner is a public relations consultant and writer living in Jerusalem. A Mommy blogger and recent Olah, Shira writes about living and raising a family as an American trying to find her niche within Israeli culture.