On December 24, the new Governor of the Bank of Israel, Prof. Amir Yaron was sworn in at Israeli President Reuven Rivlin residence with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in attendance. Through each of their speeches, it became clear that the goals of the Governor and Prime Minister were different from the goals of the President.
Though Yaron stated that he was in no rush to raise interest rates and Netanyahu asserted that inequality in Israeli economy had reduced in recent years, even though he noted that there is general concern over the high cost of living for certain products in Israel, Rivlin spoke bluntly on these issues.
“We may be meeting today at the beginning of a tense period in economics and finance,” said Rivlin. The President continued by focusing on social matters and the cost of living stating that price increases “harm our national effort, harm middle-class Israelis, and harm the most economically disadvantaged.”
Rivlin continued by stressing the importance of shrinking social gaps between the haves and have nots, as Israel has some of the widest gaps in the OECD. “There is still a strong connection in Israel between where you were born and your opportunities, your income, the quality of your education, and the social services you receive,” he stated. “This is a painful state of affairs that should keep us awake at night.”
The President also noted the challenges faced by middle-class Israelis to live with dignity. “Productivity and wages are low in Israel and the cost of living is high, especially housing and food. These Israelis work hard, but their salaries and the cost of living leaves them with too little,” he said.
In fact, although Israel is known as the “Start-up Nation”, 1.8 million citizens live in poverty feeling that they have been left behind and forgotten.
While Israel’s government grapples with protecting its economy and citizens, charity organizations strive to feed and care for those living wondering from where they will get their next meal.
Meir Panim charity organization has been serving Israel’s hungry residents for the past 17 years. Mimi Rozmaryn, Director of Global Development for Meir Panim, told Breaking Israel News that the organization not only feeds impoverished individuals and families, it also helps those who fall into the “middle class” to have food.
“We often have people come to our Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens asking if they can pack up food to bring home to their children,” explained Rozmaryn. “They explain that, although they are working, they simply cannot make ends meet.”
Not only does Meir Panim provide fresh food through their feeding centers located throughout Israel, they also distribute prepaid shopping cards before holidays and support after-school programs, which help families cope with their challenges.
“With talk of price increases, the cost of electricity is already going up in January, there is concern that the middle-class, along with the poor and disadvantaged, will find themselves struggling even more to provide the basics for their families,” continued Rozmaryn. “Meir Panim will continue to help as much as we can, given the resources we have, to ease the stresses on Israeli families and individuals.”
With estimates that one out of five Israelis live in poverty and one in three children skip meals due to lack of food, Meir Panim is counting on the generosity of donors to help them to fill in the gaps. “First, we must provide immediate help for hungry individuals,” said Roxmaryn. “Then, Meir Panim’s network of social welfare programs kick in to help stop the vicious cycle of poverty in Israel.”
To donate to Meir Panim’s network of social welfare programs, please click here.
Written in cooperation with Meir Panim.