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Jewish Journal

Israel’s Hazon Yeshaya means meal in many languages

by Meredith Price

July 17, 2008 | 12:21 am

More than 10,000 people come to <br />
Hazon Yeshaya every year to help <br />
assist the poor in Israel

More than 10,000 people come to
Hazon Yeshaya every year to help
assist the poor in Israel

The numbers are staggering. According to the latest report conducted by the national office of social security, 677,700 families (20.5 percent of all families) currently live below the poverty line in Israel. The statistics get even worse when you count the children -- 925,800, which is more than 35.9 percent of Israel's entire population younger than 18.

The Israeli Ministry of Welfare and Social Services claims that new initiatives have been put in place to reduce the increasing poverty.

"The government decided last year for the first time on a clear goal to reduce the poverty in Israel. A social economic agenda was formed based on a report by the National Organization for Economics headed by Professor Manuel Trachtenberg," said Nachum Ido, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services Office in Jerusalem.

By encouraging economic growth and improving education, science, technology and research and development in key sectors of the population, the government plans to ameliorate the situation by 2010. Theoretically, the plan is a good one -- especially for the most affected sectors of the population, the ultra-Orthodox and the Israeli Arabs. But for those who cannot afford to buy food today, two years is a long time to wait for the next meal.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the problem is the lack of attention it receives in the international and local media, whose coverage of Israel centers largely on nuclear threats from Iran, internal political turmoil and the wild success of the Israeli economy -- thanks largely to the high-tech industry.

With the shekel currently listed as the strongest currency in the world and the perceived economic growth despite close ties to the struggling American economy, the poverty is difficult to fathom. But for Abraham Israel, the founder and director of the Hazon Yeshaya Humanitarian Network in Israel, it is grotesquely apparent.

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