JERUSALEM, A new study of Israel’s poorest citizens commissioned by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), by the Shvakim Panorama research institute, reveals a growing sense of anxiety, anger, and despair among a vast majority of impoverished Israelis feeling increasingly disconnected from state institutions and society in general.
The study, of a representative sample of 494 poor Israelis, was released today at The Fellowship’s Conference to Reduce Poverty and Social Inequality in Israel, at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa.
According to the most recent study of Israeli poverty, about 22 percent of Israelis, or some 1.7 million Israeli citizens including 776,500 children, live below the poverty line. The Fellowship study showed Israel’s poor are experiencing growing social isolation and hopelessness, including that:
• 81 percent of Israeli poor say they lack the ability or opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty;
• 80 percent believe their children’s economic futures will not significantly improve;
• 25 percent (one in four) would leave Israel for another country if they could;
• 29 percent (nearly one-third) know someone who has considered suicide due to economic and social pressures;
• 24 percent report a family member has started using anti-depressants in the past year due to their socio-economic difficulties;
• 43 percent do not feel part of Israeli society;
• 65 percent have lost their faith in the country’s main institutions (including the judicial system, government ministries, and the Knesset), with 29 percent saying they don’t vote in Knesset national elections;
• 63 percent do not want their children to serve in the army.
“The survey reveals extremely worrisome statistics on the severity of poverty in Israel, and should serve as a wake up call for leaders of our country and its citizens,” said The Fellowship’s founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. “Poverty is a real threat to Israel’s social fabric and ability to function. It is time for the Israeli government to declare all-out war on poverty with the same determination and the same financial commitment it makes to combat security threats.”