Following the latest report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in which Israel ranked low in income and high in poverty, it might come as a surprise that, once again, general satisfaction from its citizens also received a high score.
“Israel has a built-in sense of community,” explained Aryeh Weingarten, Director of Karmey Chesed, a small Israel-based charity organization with a big heart, to Breaking Israel News. “Through our innovative programs are aimed to help as many people as possible while keeping overhead costs low. We strive to be part of Israel’s close-knit society in order to increase happiness in the lives of lonely and impoverished people.”
The OECD report found that one out of four in Israel’s Jewish population falls below the poverty line. In ultra-Orthodox populations, poverty rates are exceedingly higher. Yet, especially in these communities, satisfaction with life, economic conditions, housing and health are also ranked high.
“In ultra-Orthodox circles, it is taught that everyone will take care of each other, as it says in Leviticus 19:18, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’,” continued Weingarten. “Also, it is accepted that people live with much less than the average population, and have more crowded living conditions as they have smaller apartments with more children.”
The report found that 68 percent of Israeli citizens are employed, a relatively high rate. However, it is noteworthy that this is due, in part, to high incidences of temporary, part-time and self-employed work. These positions offer low-salaries and poor job security. For those employed full-time, Israel ranked third for working extra-long hours to make ends meet.
“At Karmey Chesed, we find that we receive calls for help from the working poor, the elderly and sick, struggling single parents, lone soldiers with no one to turn to, those expelled from Gush Katif and people with no place to live,” said Weingarten to Breaking Israel News. “Money, furniture and food may not buy happiness. But, it goes a long way to help needy people to know that they are cared about.”
On a scale of 0-10 for general life satisfaction, Israel received a 7.4 grade, coming in fifth out of the 36 participating countries. Though that might seem counter-intuitive given the many challenges of living in a hostile Middle East ranking high on the poverty scale, positive psychology expert Tal Ben-Shahar, credits the people of the Holy Land for its high ranking.
During an interview with Israel21c, Ben-Shahar stated that because Israel focuses on relationships, with friends and family highly valued and quality time with them given top priority, even in trying times, Israelis feel happy.
Following the somewhat embarrassing report, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon publicly stated that the Israeli government was working to increase allotments for the elderly, and reduce the cost of housing. Until that time, however, there are hundreds of families grateful for an organization like Karmey Chesed, which strives, in its humble way, to put a smile on their faces.