The International Day of Fighting against Poverty: The New Poor People

Levinsky park, south Tel Aviv, Israel, 4.2.2011. cc: flickr.
Levinsky park, south Tel Aviv, Israel, 4.2.2011. cc: flickr.

International Poverty Day: The New Poor People

Who are the poor people in Israel 2012? The answer is simple: it can be every one of us. A special opinion for the International Day of Fighting against Poverty.Today, the Knesset held a special meeting with its chairman Rubi Rivlin to commemorate the International Day to Combat Poverty. It is mostly a date representing the problems of the others. We all live within stereotypes that connect poverty and the problems it brings with certain groups in society. So the groups people’s character is to blame, not the system. There is no escape from stereotypes: the Arabs do not pay taxes, the Mizrachi do not make an effort to find work, the Ultra Orthodox are lazy and interested only in learning Torah. Ethiopians are not educated and the Russians are alcoholics. It is hard not to hear poor people being blamed for their own poverty and not the system. It is difficult for the Israeli society to see that the trouble of poverty also brings about other troubles. It is easier to point to the man and to what group he/she belongs with and not the social structure that caused the deterioration.

Who are the poor people of the new year (2012)?

Well, it is simple: they can be everyone of us. Although during the years we identified the poor people mostly with certain groups in the society, among them, women, Arabs, Mizrachis, Ultra Orthodox and later on also Russian and Ethiopian, lately it has changed, because poverty trickled also into groups of society that it was never identified with. This is the bad news. The poverty expands and do not stop. The current centralized economic system has no regulations or control and leaves most of us behind.

The middle class collapses every day. The finance companies demand a flexible labor market, but for the convenience of initiators and corporations. This is the way in which the labor market becomes an obstacle for weak citizens. It is true that there is still a high correlation between poverty and ethnic origin and gender, but what was once a marginal phenomenon, especially among old and lonely people, is accelerating: more and more Ashkenazi men experience a lack of economic security, and also poverty. Also the psychological perception that everyone can be poor is trickling.

Poverty strikes everyone

According to the Adva institute, poverty among Arab families in 2010 was almost 4 times more than in Jewish families; in 2011 the number of people who were looking for jobs in Dimona was 10 times more then in Ramat HaSharon; and until now, in 2012 most of the people who come to Rabbis for Human Rights rights center in Hadera are Mizrachi, new emigrants and Arab women who have failed for years now to find work. In general the amount of poor people in Israel rose to 20%. This is more then in Mexico and it is the highest out of all the OECD countries. 40% of Israelis earn less than half of the average wages. These facts add to the parallel tendency of the impoverishment of the middle class and its weakening status. People live off of inheritances and from past savings. It is true that they still live more or less properly, but the future of this group in society has been quickly worn out. This is a slippery and merciless slope.

The International Day of Fighting Against Poverty must remind us that because of the social problems it brings, poverty strikes all, whether directly or indirectly. And actually maybe the 2011 summer protests will, induce in the new year the brotherhood of genders and groups that together will change the system that makes people poor. It has become clear that the fight against poverty is the most difficult war.