Israel: poverty in Tel Aviv

11 11 2009

Maria W., 24, Germany

When it comes to Israel and human rights issues there is a lot to talk about. Not long ago the country was blamed for denying Palestinians access to water and that’s only one point of a long list of Human Rights abuses it is accused of. In the last three years the UN Human Rights Council issued 20 resolutions against it most of them concerning the Middle East Conflict.

Walking around in the middle of Tel Aviv all that seems to be pretty far away – although it is in fact only a few kilometres. But on the city’s streets people are busy with other things. Like shopping.  I have never seen so many shops for clothing, shoes and accessory side by side in any other city. Apparently Tel Avivians like shopping quite a lot. Some of them. Probably the minority.

Between all the shopping bags and the latest fashion in the shop windows, right in front of a Burger King branch an old man is lying on the pavement. When I was in Tel Aviv two weeks ago I walked past him a few days in a row always finding him at the same spot. He seemed unconscious with his mouth half open, his eyes half closed.

One day the mans pants slipped a bit and when I slowed down a little while walking past him like I had done the days before, I could see a big wound on his right leg. It looked serious and I was wondering whether he had the possibility to get medical attention somewhere.

You can probably find a scene like this in every big city: homeless people lingering around, lying and sitting on the street, begging for money. And at the same time people going to work in their suits, coming out of shops with a bag full of cloth in every hand, big cars and big sunglasses. But in Tel Aviv that contrast seemed to be even bigger to me since absolutely no one walking past him seemed to care. Did anyone at all actually notice him? Let alone giving him a few Shekel.

Israel is a country with huge social contrasts referring to property, capital, education and income. One third of the children lives below the poverty line which means they have less than 1 720 Shekel a month. That’s about 335 Euro. A report by the Israeli National Insurance Institute shows that 23.7 % of the Israelis population lived in poverty in 2008 while social services  by the state were cut and an immense amount of money was spent on security and as subventions for the settlements.

It seems the countries policy is completely concentrated on the conflict with the Palestinians and that there is not much time left for domestic policy. And for human rights within the country. Walking past this homeless man and knowing all that made me wonder whether the Israeli government really takes care of its people like they always say and like a lot of Israeli believe. Seeing him lying on the pavement makes me doubt it.