While the Israeli government clamps down brutally on the Palestinians, there is another kind of war taking place inside Israel itself, the war of the rich Jews against the poor Jews. Poverty is growing among Israeli Jews. Unemployment is at record levels and cuts in social welfare are ongoing. A layer of society has fallen well below the poverty line, and this layer is growing. The “Promised Land” hasn’t kept its promises for some! It is this class polarization that Sharon fears. That explains also his policies vis a vis the Palestinians: hit them brutally every time a bomb attack is carried out. That way the tit-for-tat assassinations followed by bomb attacks goes on. And that way, the real social problems can be swept under the carpet while the Zionist leaders try and keep the Israeli Jews united as one block against the Palestinians. But situations like the one described in this letter indicate that that block may not hold for ever. It must crack at some point. The letter was sent to us by Mordechai (with an accompanying note of his own), who translated it from the original which was sent to the Israeli Finance Minister, Netanyahu. [Note by Fred Weston, March 30, 2004]
Lots of letters are sent to the government about the plight of the people who come to the local help centre. They give a very good indication of the desperate plight of, especially, the Russian immigrants who are either poor or disabled, especially the last one that was mailed to the finance ministry, and Netanyahu himself. The one to the ministry was acknowledged, but so far no reply. Netanyahu's office did not even acknowledge the message.
Next week is Passover, and like Christmas in the UK the poor get food parcels from various charities. During the last two years of the Barak government the centre got parcels to distribute to the poor people who attend, but since Sharon has been in power, nothing. The reason is always the same “due to the current security situation we cannot help”.
Here is a sample letter from the many the centre sends. I don't read them normally because I know they will make my blood boil. But I almost cried translating this letter.
Israel, March 30, 2004
To: The Treasury Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu
Re: Problems of disabled paying rent for apartment
Our help centre attends to 300 seriously disabled invalids, and many lesser disabled invalids. Social Security has reduced the percentage disability rating of many of them and others cannot find work. Additionally, this has automatically cut the amount of their housing benefit.
For example, a cancer patient we know, who had a 100% disability rating, used to get approximately 2000 shekels a month. They have now lowered her disability rating to 60% so she receives only 1000 shekels a month in benefit. The rent for her apartment comes to 1170 shekels a month. She is a divorcee with two children, one of them having finished his military service a little while back.
This cancer patient goes to the market and picks maggot-infested fruit from the ground. The meat that she buys is chicken throats and legs. All the disabled go to the market on Fridays, towards shutdown and get food in this way. They rely on complimentary food from the stores and from the floor of the market. These people who live in abject poverty don’t have enough money for food, medicines and other basic products.
Furthermore the rent on apartments is dollarised, so it follows the value of the dollar. To rent a room here costs between US$350 and $380 per month. Add on to this council tax, school fees and visits to the doctor.
Sir, how is it possible to live in this way?! The disabled spend most of their money on rent for their apartments and taxes to the government. They end up with no money to live on! This is the policy of the government! When there is no work for the young and healthy, then what can the disabled do? How is it possible to live without work and with so many bills to pay?
This is really a shame and a disgrace! Where is the humanism of the Jewish people that used to exist, was it just a name? Why does the government inflict such hardship on the disabled? What do the ministers do with all the money?
Will you help us??? At this time I turn to you for help for the sake of the people that really and truly need it! The fellowship of the disabled for the sake of the disabled!
Thanking you in advance!
PS. Soon the Passover festival will be upon us. I appeal to you for help for the sake of our fellowship. Please grant us some funds because we don't have any budget at all to finance our activity.