Eretz Yisrael Time

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007
There is an advertisement running on my site for an organization called “Warm the Needy”.

They are providing a vital service to the Israeli community in the wake of what is turning into (in my opinion) one of the most financially desperate and destructive situations that the State of Israel has seen in a long time.

I don’t have links and exact statistics to cite right at this moment but it is estimated that some 20% of the population falls into the category of “poor”.

More significant was an article I read last week that said that a significant percent of these poor people are employed full-time, not sitting at home doing nothing.

I am personally a believer Milton Friedman’s capitalist philosophy. But I also believe that if we as individuals don’t help the sectors weaker than us in our own society that we weaken and damage our society as a whole.

And if people who are working full time jobs can no longer make ends meet (and I mean on the most basic, minimalist level) then Israeli society is in big trouble.

This week the government ended the subsidies and price controls on the most basic loaf of bread. Subsequently, the price of that bread went up 50% this week. Batya points this out in her post here.

The government claims it will subsidize Bituach Leumi payments with a one-time subsidy for those already qualified. What this actually means is that most people who actually need the subsidy will not be getting it, and will simply be paying more.

Since Rosh Hashanah the price of electricity was raised twice to over a 15% increase.

The price of gas (car and home heating) has been rising steadily.

In short, the cost of living in Israel has been increasing, while the salaries of the weakest sector (and perhaps everyone’s salary) have not been keeping up with all these hikes.

And while Milton Friedman would argue that it isn’t the government’s job to feed the poor, he would also agree that all the taxes, unbelievable tax laws, restrictions on competition, and bureaucracy that exists in Israel plays the most significant role in creating this situation.

The government clearly has no intention of reforming the tax and legal codes that has created and maintains this radical disparity and dangerous situation, so I think it still has the obligation to help those it is hurting.

But of course it won’t.

This leaves it to private individuals to take the initiative and help those struggling to make ends meet.

Friedman would say we are "Free to Choose" who to help and it isn't the job of the government, and he is right. But our Torah does obligate us to help.

As I began this post, “Warm the Needy” is one such organization. They help directly subsidize the rising cost of heating for poor families. They help take some of the pressure off, by supplying these families with subsidized heaters and helping pay for part of the rising electric costs.

I’ve met far too many people lately that work full time (from single parents, to families where both spouses work), yet they are having trouble paying for the basics.

If you have Ma’aser money you want to give, to where 100% of your charity will 100% go to the people that really need it, then “Warm the Needy” is certainly a place I would personally recommend and endorse.

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