According to a National Economic Council report, Israel’s population will increase by 5 million people over the next 23 years.
Israeli ecologist Alon Tal wrote an article, “Racing toward disaster: Israel’s unsustainable population bomb,” in response to these findings. In it, he describes how this 60 percent population increase will exacerbate problems already present in many components of Israel’s infrastructure, economy and housing markets.
These are issues we, as American Jews, often overlook because of our focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Highlighting his grim outlook, Tal writes, “Signs are everywhere: missing the wedding ceremony of a dear friend because of an unanticipated traffic jam; … waiting years for a day in court because of the backlog; seeing a child fall behind and alienated in a classroom of 40-plus children; … knowing that one’s successful children will never be able to afford a new apartment due to the insatiable demand that drives ever-rising prices.”
A January Pew study, “American and Israeli Jews: Twin Portraits,” shows that 38 percent of Israelis view security threats, violence and terrorism as the most important long-term problem facing Israel, a sentiment shared by 66 percent of U.S. Jews.
The same study shows that 39 percent of Israelis see economic problems as the most pressing long-term issue facing the Jewish state, an opinion shared by only 1 percent of U.S. Jews.
Further, according to Professor Reuven Hazan, Hebrew University’s chairman of Israeli democracy and politics, only 37 percent of Israelis feel economically secure, while 62 percent feel confident militarily.
He similarly shows that 66 percent of Israelis see socio-economic change as the No. 1 issue for their government to address. Only 31 percent see the military and security as the priority for their lawmakers.
Why, then, are American Jews so far off the mark in their perception of Israel’s long-term challenges?
To truly understand modern Israel and its story, it is important to look at the many pressing issues facing the Jewish state. Sensationalized international media coverage of the circumstances surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict, rifts with the Diaspora, and international political dealings are not enough.
Israel is a small, young country dealing with numerous, globally common problems. Rising costs of living and housing displacement, overcrowded hospitals and schools, general infrastructure in dire need of updating, and rising poverty rates are often more of a concern to Israelis than the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Center for Israel Education offers links to free English-language articles and news sources on Israel: