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Rich Man, Poor Man
The transition of Israel's economy from socialist incompetence to a modern, high-tech engine of wealth is one of the most positive stories coming out of the Jewish state in the last decade. But, as is the case with many good things, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that an Israeli consensus in favor of free-market reform has demolished an old system that served the country poorly. The bad news is that a lot of people are being hurt by these reforms.
Most specifically, the growth of poverty in Israel is a lamentable, yet entirely predictable, result of the transition from a system based only on entitlements and suffocating government controls into one in which more citizens are being asked to stop depending on the government to do everything for them.
While this change has led to enormous growth in spite of the collapse of the peace process and the ongoing cost of the conflict with those who wish to destroy Israel, it has also weakened a safety net that many are unable to replace on their own. Along with the many winners created by more freedom and growth, there are losers whose poverty is greater than ever.
Some sectors of the country in particular -- the elderly, the Orthodox haredim and Israeli Arabs, who, for varying reasons are unprepared to deal with the consequences of economic freedom -- are being left behind. As this week's cover story relates, the situation of many poor Israelis and their children remains dire.
While the solution to these problems must, by definition, be primarily Israeli, it is also incumbent on American Jews to step up and do what we can to help our fellow Jews in need. It remains as vital as ever that we still fulfill our obligations to Israelis left behind by a country on the move.