Cottage cheese and false gods

The price of cottage cheese here in Israel has become a hot topic. The Israeli financial newspaper, Globes, had done some investigative reporting recently and in an article entitled We’re overpaying for more than just cottage cheese put the spotlight on the high cost of dairy products , other foods, and consumer goods and services, as well as providing a price and salary comparison with other countries. As a result, Israeli resident Yitzhak Elrov decided to do something about it and called for a boycott of cottage cheese for the month of July. Apparently, this has made it all the way to the K’nesset, where an investigation into the cost of dairy products is being launched. And some supermarkets have even reduced the price of cottage cheese, letting their suppliers know they expect them to do the same.

Because we olim are particularly sensitive to the disparity in prices for many products between Israel and our home countries, these articles have been cause for much comment on Nefesh B’Nefesh’s email list. Of course, if there is no economic reason for the high cost of many of these products, then they should be investigated; true market forces and competition should be allowed to help bring down the cost of living for all of us in Israel. Most commentators offered their take on the veracity of the article and were also sure to mention that although finances are of significant concern, making aliyah is not a financial decision.

To quote a few olim:

From IP
In the UK, students leave university carrying a huge debt of student loans – that wasn’t mentioned in the article. Neither was the relative cost of health care in Europe, the US and Israel.

It’s easy to pick and choose individual prices to make your point, just as the international media pick and choose their “facts” about Israel. You can be technically “accurate” without being “truthful”.

From HB
It is certainly true that some products here have inflated prices that would come down if more competition were allowed – and something really does need to be done about this – and not just for cottage cheese. And it’s also true that wages in many cases are lower here than they should be – and something ultimately has to give there as well. But when you really factor in everything, there isn’t the great difference that so many people describe. And while people here complain about going into minus, I know too many Americans who have their own version of minus – just going into credit card debt.

All in all, it’s great to be here in Israel, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

From RA
…take the good with the bad and keep the eye on the prize, which is NOT the cheapest cost of living, or the highest average level of education, or the cleanliness of the cities for that matter. The prize is the land itself and the Jewish mishpacha that is of every possible origin, every look, every walk of life, and of wide range of religious observance.”

From MB
I am clear about what I have come here for, I came for the people of Israel. During a few months baaretz I’ve been successful if I can say, meeting excellent Israeli people. That’s the value I look for. It’s far away from monetary values. It provides me with a feeling of fulfillment, with a venue of self-expression; I recognize myself in these people … In short, I came for the tribe and my place in it.

I still miss some of those things more easily or cheaply acquired in the States. It has taken/is taking a while for me to get used to “making do” with substitutes or paying “premium prices” for some goods. Other items are cheaper, particularly fruits and vegetables which are very inexpensive compared to those in the U.S. So, it’s a mixed bag. And, even though people who say ‘you have to realize that Israel is not America and the sooner you get used to that idea, the easier your absorption here’ are pretty much on the mark, changing one’s mindset takes time.

However, we must remember that money can be a false god and believing that living in Israel is more financially risky than elsewhere is to believe in the false god of country or currency, and not in the G-d of Israel. Consider that the world is losing confidence in the dollar as its reserve currency:

Why the Dollar’s Reign Is Near an End
Finally, there is the danger that the dollar’s safe-haven status will be lost. Foreign investors—private and official alike—hold dollars not simply because they are liquid but because they are secure. The U.S. government has a history of honoring its obligations, and it has always had the fiscal capacity to do so.

But now, mainly as a result of the financial crisis, federal debt is approaching 75% of U.S. gross domestic product. Trillion-dollar deficits stretch as far as the eye can see. And as the burden of debt service grows heavier, questions will be asked about whether the U.S. intends to maintain the value of its debts or might resort to inflating them away.

Even individual states are losing faith in the dollar:

Tenn. Joins States Considering Alternate Currency Legislation
According to the text of Senate Joint Resolution 98, Ketron’s purpose in initiating such a proposal is “to create a special joint committee to study whether the State of Tennessee should adopt a currency to serve as an alternative to the currency distributed by the Federal Reserve System in the event of a major breakdown of the Federal Reserve System.”

…The state governments of South Carolina and Virginia have passed their respective versions of the law, and both houses of the Utah legislature have passed a bill approving gold and silver as legal tender (it awaits the Governor’s signature or veto). Colorado, Montana, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Georgia, and Washington are also considering doing the same thing.

Europe has its own problems, too.

Perfect Financial Storm Shaping Up for Europe, U.S.
Meanwhile, the IMF, whose disgraced former president, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was instrumental in helping the eurozone finesse the bailouts of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, is rudderless and likely to have considerably less clout. The G8 countries are meeting this week to try to cobble out yet another way to buy time for Europe, but they will be distracted by a burgeoning debt problem on the other side of the Atlantic: the spectacle of the United States sinking into insolvency as it runs out of money to borrow. Greece, after all, has been sunk by indebtedness of around 150 percent of the GDP; can the USA, whose debt has reached roughly 100 percent of its own GDP, be far behind?

The British Health Care system needs a bailout:

Germany offers to treat a million British patients
German hospitals are offering to clear the entire NHS waiting list after the Department of Health opened the floodgates for Britons to seek treatment abroad.

Health bosses in Germany yesterday urged Britain to send up to a million patients for surgery this year – which would clear almost every person waiting for an operation.

Now, consider Israel – it has weathered the recent economic crises much better than many other countries, it’s a high-tech leader that has made possible much of the computer and cellphone technology we have today, has recently discovered huge reserves of oil and gas it can begin to develop (thank you G-d), and all this in only 63 years, all while fighting constant battles for survival. I ask you, which country is better poised for future growth?

So, while there are problems to be addressed, inequities to be rectified, and issues to be resolved, I’ll bank on the land that Hashem has not forgotten. Because He did promise us a rose garden here; we just have to till the soil a bit while we watch out for the thorns (false gods included).

Will I eat cottage cheese next month? Probably. But I didn’t come here for the cheese.

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