In this difficult time in the economy of the State of Israel, we find ourselves being even more careful not to spend too much at the local grocery store. When our child puts two bags of snacks in the cart, we return one. We ignore the ice cream that beckons us. And we endure the inconvenience of the rush hours in order to take advantage of sales and price reductions.
The cost of living affects us all. Save on costs, cut corners, and try to end the month with dignity. But for people living below the poverty line, the right to basic dignity is a dream. Families wait with anxiety for food baskets. They no longer bring their children to the supermarket, so they don't have to explain why they can't have their favorite snack or just any food item they want. Unfortunately, lots of parents go to bed hungry, just so their children don't know the feeling of hunger.
Due to the Corona period that paralyzed the economy for two years and more, the war in Ukraine, and critical raw materials that were stuck in distant countries (including China, which is one of the largest producers in the world), Israel suffered a shortage of products. To help the citizens, the government decided to pour money into grants, which in retrospect caused a severe rise in the cost of living in 2023.
Here is the consumption data for 2023 according to the Central Bureau of Statistics:
The consumer price index increased by 0.5% in February 2023 compared to January 2023 and reached an index level of 102.8 points. The consumer price index excluding housing and energy also rose by 0.5%, each reaching index levels of 102.3 points and 102.6 points respectively. The consumer price index excluding vegetables and fruits rose by 0.3% and reached an index level of 102.8 points.
The prices of fuel, electricity, water, and property taxes have increased, which is also causing the prices in the food industry to go up. This coming May, the prices of controlled dairy products will increase by 16%, along with many other companies raising their food prices.
An increase here and an increase there is causing the residents of Israel to plead to be heard. These price increases have affected every pocket, and we don't see any significant change on the horizon that could make things easier.
Poverty report data for the year 2022-2023
The harsh reality is that over 530,000 families in Israel live in food insecurity, which is about 976,000 people of whom 665,000 are children. (This is determined by the Labor and Welfare Committee as part of the report of the National Council for Food Security for 2022.) Therefore, the forecast for 2023 is particularly worrying.
Statistics indicate that in families of two or more breadwinners, there are approximately 156,000 families that are still suffering from food insecurity. About 40,000 single-parent families live in food insecurity, out of a total of about 118,000 single-parent families. There are about 176,000 families with parents between the ages of 31-45 living in food insecurity.
Some populations suffer even more abnormally and rely on the government to provide them with assistance, such as in the ultra-orthodox sector. However, according to established criteria, the food cards will be distributed to families that are already entitled to large discounts in property taxes (criterion who prefers ultra-Orthodox families). Although in the coalition agreement, it was decided that one billion shekels would be allocated annually for food stamps. The "Calcalist" newspaper discovered that in the last budget debate, it was agreed that the amount would be reduced to a quarter of a billion shekels for the year 2023 and half a billion shekels in 2024.
The National Initiative for Food Security reports that in the years 2022-2023, hundreds of thousands of families are living in severe food insecurity and are only receiving aid and support mainly during the holidays. Tens of thousands of families in Israel fall through the cracks due to the lack of coordination between the various associations. Many families also feel immense shame that prevents them from asking for support.
But these donations solve a temporary problem and do not eradicate poverty. One meal fills a hungry stomach until the next meal. We live in a difficult time, but among these frightening numbers, there are also sparks of light and hope. Humanitarian aid and vouchers or food baskets are providing a sense of relief.
Real distress, real families
At Vision for Israel, we meet wonderful people who have fallen into a predicament they never dreamed would be their lot. They get up in the morning and don't know if they can get through the day, let alone a whole month. Sometimes the family is in a stable financial situation and the unexpected storms of life such as trauma, illnesses, accidents, and sudden expenses shake their lives. And their situation quickly worsens like a rolling snowball.
Ya'ara* is one of these people. We have known her for many years. She is an educated woman with a master's degree and is also a single mother of four children, three of whom have autism.
Due to her children's need for constant support at home, she cannot work long hours at the workplace. Therefore, she obtained a teaching certificate and works as a teacher with a meager salary that does not cover the rent and current bills. Although she receives disability benefits, the amount barely covers all the treatments and specific needs of her children.
The alimony she receives is very low - 3,600 NIS. This amount is used for food, clothing, hygiene products, and the completion of ongoing expenses. It is not enough to cover all of these things, plus the special treatments that her children need.
Due to the cost of living which has recently gotten worse, Ya'ara* suffers from even greater shortages. She lives with her children in a small apartment, avoids turning on the heating in the winter, and is forced to cover herself and her children with coats and blankets inside the house. Due to the high prices, she is forced to carefully measure the number of fruits and vegetables she can buy each week. She makes many calculations in an attempt to feed her children with reasonable food because she is not able to purchase healthy options due to the high costs.
Ya'ara* and her children's Shabbat and holiday meals are very modest, and everything is measured to the shekel. Wouldn't it be nice for her to have the ability to simply buy and serve her children generously?
Of course, as a single mother of children with special needs, Ya'ara* doesn't have a single moment to herself during the week. When she is not at work, she devotedly cares for her children. Although they are old enough, they are not independent and she has to support them at all hours of the day. Even the fact that she is a hard worker with high education does not help her in her current situation. She works as much as she can, but the money that goes into the bank is not enough even for basic needs.
She has no property and is not expected to receive any inheritance. Three of her children will continue to depend on her financially and will continue to need her every day. As the cost of living increases, she struggles more and more to survive. She cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. It hurts our hearts to see such a dedicated woman fighting for her life and the lives of her children.
Vision for Israel had the privilege of supporting Ya'ara over the years in various ways. We donated two laptops, school bags, gift cards for the holidays, and more to her and her family.
In 2022, Vision for Israel helped over 5,000 people with donations of electrical appliances, furniture, food baskets, packages with hygiene products, gift cards for purchasing food and clothing, and more. Not a single day goes by, when we don't provide help to families in need. The need is tremendous and unfortunately is growing more and more, especially now.
Sadly, families like Ya'ara's are not rare - there are hundreds of thousands like her. It hurts to know that because of a lack of communication or logistics families in Israel are still suffering, even despite the tremendous efforts of non-profits.
Vision for Israel is committed to being a help and support to the residents of Israel in difficult times. It is unthinkable that families and children will go to bed hungry, beg for help, or live in malnutrition. Thanks to the generosity of donors, partners, supporters, and volunteers, we can continue helping the hungry residents of our country.
Given the dark forecast for 2023, we believe that the heart of generosity, caring for the citizens of Israel, and love for Israel will overcome the difficulties and the lack. When everyone gives the little they have, whether it is giving their time in distributing food baskets, a small donation, or even carrying the food baskets home for those in need - together we lift up their weak hands.
We will continue to support the citizens of Israel always.
*name has been changed