To Charles Bronfman and other donors: Please invest in the people of Israel

Birthright Israel co-founder Charles Bronfman has proposed establishing a lobby in Jerusalem to promote the interests of North American Jewry. He points to the growing rift between Israeli government policies and liberal religious convictions prevalent amongst mainstream Jewry in Western countries.

However there is more to the divide than religion. Israel is fast becoming a kleptocracy governed by megalomanic and monopolistic elites who do not know the difference between their own self interests and the country as a whole. A country where Jewish ethics are set aside and everything social is being destroyed. Where many elderly eat out of garbage bins, there is no consumer protection and making exorbitant profits is the highest goal in life.

What does North American Jewry concern itself with? The peace process with the Palestinians, the rights of African migrants and the right of the Women of the Wall.

HAVEN’T YOU FORGOTTEN SOMETHING?

Why are there so few Western immigrants to Israel?
The authorities promote an image of olim as people who are welcomed by the state and receive all sorts of priveleges. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The last thing the present government wants is large-scale immigration from Western countries. The overwhelming majority of Western Jews tend to vote for parties which in Israel would be considered the opposition. Large numbers of olim from the West might benefit Israel, but replacing Israel’s current leaders would be considered a catastrophe by those in power. Israel efficiently absorbed more than a million immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and built homes and infrastructure for more than 600,000 people living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. However the few Western immigrants who arrive (with the exception of the very wealthy, the religious and those who settle in the West Bank) face countless bureaucratic hurdles. A coincidence?

Poverty
Many Holocaust survivors, disabled and elderly are living in daunting poverty. The government – which recently had a 20-billion-shekel surplus – has refused to grant them a minimum income. Where is Western Jewry?

Age discrimination
While we are constantly hearing how Israel does not have enough qualified workers, tens of thousands of Israelis have been forced to leave the country because of their age. When applying for a job in Israel the first thing one is asked is one’s age. The authorities actively promote this policy. One cannot study, volunteer, take part in any kind of program or work above a certain age. People who reach the age of 67 are forced to retire no matter how competent. And between the age of 67 and 70 you are not allowed to make more than a pittance without losing your pension.

Prices
Israel has some of the highest prices in the world. Why pay twice the price as anywhere else? Because businessmen can get away with it. And they do. It’s called monopolism.

Healthcare
Because the authorities neglect the public health system ‘consumers’ are forced to take out private policies. Israelis reportedly pay more for healthcare than in any other country in the OECD. Israelis have a government which neglects healthcare in the interest of profit.

Housing
For decades the authorities have been neglecting public housing to further the profits of real estate developers.

The kibbutzim
Since the Cold War successive Israeli governments have been starving the kibbutzim and doing everything possible to destroy the communal lifestyle. Shouldn’t people be free to live as they choose? Less than 2 percent of the population live on kibbutzim but they are responsible for nearly ten percent of Israel’s GNP. They also settled the country and made great sacrifices. How much government investment goes to the kibbutzim? Probably less than one percent. Israel is perhaps the only country in the world which does everything possible to destroy its farming community.

Press freedom
Last year nearly 1,000 journalists were fired and Israel’s public broadcasting channel replaced by shallow commercial broadcasting. Israelis who criticise the government or even a mayor can be barred from Facebook.

Please set up a lobby Mr Bronfman. And please remember that you should be concerned about the above issues as well.

About the Author
Asaf Shimoni is an author, journalist and translator who returned to Israel in 2016 after spending 40 years abroad, most of them in the Netherlands. He grew up near Boston, made aliyah while living on a kibbutz (from 1973 to 1976), and graduated from Syracuse University in 1978. He also lived some 5 years in Sicily. He believes that the media should be as critical and truthful as possible.
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