In Israel we have a saying, “ha eretz sheh okalet yoshvah:” the land that eats its people. Indeed, the cost of living in Israel is exorbitant. Rental prices are comparable to those in New York. Gasoline is almost $8.00/gallon. The cost of heating one’s home in the winter can be as high as $400/month and the cost of electricity steadily rises, this year by 6.6 percent. And it won’t stop here. In the next two years prices are expected to be 31 percent higher than what they were at the beginning of this year.
Now factor in water costs – which also continuously increase – and groceries, the prices of which can lead one to adopting a modest diet. Items such as orange juice or peanut butter are delicacies. In fact, my mother was so astonished by the cost of orange juice during her visit here, that when she returned to the States she shipped a box of orange juice (frozen) and other “treats” (i.e. salsa, granola bars, ginger snaps, etc.) for my children. Because honestly, with my and my spouse’s meager salaries, we simply cannot afford to buy these kinds of things for our children.
Speaking of children, the innumerous costs of raising a child in the Holy Land is all the birth control mechanism needed to deter people from having more children; this excludes the ultra religious, of course, who don’t mind sleeping five children in one 10′ x 10′ room. Of all the expenses related to living, this one hits me the hardest. As a parent, quite naturally, I wish to provide my children with a well-rounded and enriched childhood. I want all of them to have music lessons, go to summer camps and participate in extracurricular activities which develop their many gifts but the reality of effectuating that is not feasible. I thought it would be a great idea this year for my older son to participate in a wonderful three-week summer camp that I found online; it would have been his first time. However, after investigating the cost, I came to the unfortunate reality that 9,000 shekels ( 2,400 U.S. dollars) is unquestionably too rich for my blood.
Gymnastics lessons, piano lessons, horseback riding — these are reserved for the children of doctors, engineers, lawyers, financiers or hi-tech executives. There’s no bus drivers’, postal workers’ or teachers’ salary (among the lowest in the world) option or even discount. In Israel if your parent happens to be employed in one of the many professions that keep our country functioning, well that’s just too bad for you; you should have chosen Shari Arison as your mother.
With some of everyone’s hands in your pockets, trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents and wrestling the unscrupulous utility and services companies that are constantly overcharging or flat-out robbing you with dubious fees and contracts, who has time for anything else? And if I’m constantly embattled in everyday living disputes and bureaucracy, how on earth can I possibly have time for social injustices?
Israel may be the land of milk and honey, but that’s only for those who have the money. The rest of us are struggling day by day just to keep our heads above water and making a wave when we can.