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Alexander Goldenstein Photo: Gabriel Muratov
Alexander Goldenstein Photo: Gabriel Muratov
 
 

Israelis, stop whining

Op-ed: Recent wave of social protest mostly an indication that Israelis have become spoiled

Alexander Goldenstein
Published: 08.11.11, 18:23 / Israel Opinion

For quite a while I wanted to write about why my friends and I do not go to the demonstrations. After reading in the financial newspaper "Calcalist" about an artistic couple who live in Tel-Aviv and don't want to move even to neayby Bat Yam or Holon, I decided to explain why young people aged 30-something like me, who've experienced firsthand the difficulties of living here, did not join the protest.

 

I am a journalist, deputy editor of a very influential website in Russian. Like the vast majority of journalists, I don't have a technical education; therefore, I can only dream about the wages and benefits of engineers and programmers. Financially, my situation is average. Nothing more, unfortunately.

 

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In the same abovementioned article, this couple of artist-actors, who live with their two children by Rabin Square in a 100 square meter apartment, complained about their bitter fate. It's difficult for them. Israel is expensive. And the government does not help them, these great artists, while in the Netherlands they would be subsidized. And child care costs NIS 3,000 (roughly $900) a month. And so on and so forth, crying and wailing. And no, they admit that they would not be willing to relocate to Holon or Bat Yam, it's not for them.

 

What prevents those Tel-Aviv artists from sending their child to care centers of WIZO or Naamat, which cost half the amount? What prevents them from living not across from Rabin Square, but 10-15 km to the east (Petach Tikva) or to the south (Bat Yam)? Why should the government subsidize them if they chose to work in their profession freely?

 

I live in Bat Yam. Before that I lived in Holon’s wonderful Kiryat Ben-Gurion neighborhood for three years. I rent two-bedroom apartment - quite spacious, but very old (with all that entails,) for NIS 3200 (about $950) a month; it's really quite a bit of money. I'm not asking the State of Israel to support me, because for a healthy man to seek such assistance sounds pathetic to me, and besides, I chose to become a journalist. Who can I blame, if this was my free choice and I knew that I won't earn as much as the successful high-tech folks?

 

Don’t waste your money

My friends and I have not attended the social demonstrations, although life is hard for us too. My car cost twice as much as it would in Germany or Spain. French and British cheeses at the supermarket cost three to five times more. Housing is super expensive, and so is fuel. Beer at the bar - about four times more expensive than in Prague. Clearly, we need to make changes. Yet we do not go to demonstrations.

 

Why? Because we think that Israelis have become too spoiled. All over the world economies are collapsing; Greece, Spain, Ireland and others fall apart. And here those same artists want us to follow in the path of those failing economies. They want to live in the center of Tel Aviv, they want to shop in the store under their apartment and not in the cheaper supermarket far away, they want to sit in their coffee shops and bars - and that everything will be good. They have long forgotten the meaning of modesty, and what’s worse, they have long forgotten the meaning of responsibility. They want the state to care for them; they do not take responsibility for their fate. Like in the Queen’s beautiful song, they want everything - and they want it now.

 

I believe there should be gradual changes. Even if for the time being I must pay for an old apartment in Bat Yam the same price as a place in downtown Berlin or Boston. I want the Israeli economy to change, but I don't want to destroy its very foundations. I want to reduce the burden of indirect taxation. I want to reduce the power of the tycoons and cartels, to open the market to real competition. But I do not want to cut down the whole tree - only certain branches.

 

Last but not least - I wish people would stop this shopping craze. Stop consuming like pigs. Our capitalism is based on people just like them, who do not know when to stop, how NOT to buy an iPhone for a nine-old girl, how NOT to live in the most expensive place in the country just because it's cool and comfortable, how NOT to move out at age 21, when there is no real possibility of paying both rent and university tuition. Don't worry, you can live with your parents for another two or three years. And let those people understand that whoever chooses to be a painter, sculptor or actor cannot guarantee himself a salary of a software engineer. Simply put - I want them to take responsibility for their lives.

 

Alexander Goldenshtein is deputy editor in chief of izrus.co.il

 

 

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