Tag Archives: Europe

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.



Anti-Semitism in the United States?

Is there anti-semitism in the United States? The assumed answer is no, but one should never rely on assumptions. Paying attention to the trends around the world and to what’s transpiring in the U.S.,  I see the writing on the wall.

The topic of anti-semitism in the United States came up in a  conversation I had yesterday with Noa, a secular Israeli. At the conclusion of our meeting to discuss the possible assistance her organization can provide for the business I am developing ( check out my new blog Business Confab) she asked me why we made aliyah. She could understand the toshav chozer – the Israeli ex-patriate who moves back to Israel, and she could understand people who move to Israel from countries where there is anti-semitism or lack of freedom, but from the United States?

The topic of anti-semitism has been on my radar since well before we made aliyah, as I saw it rearing its ugly head again in Europe. In March of 2009, I watched a video which has been posted on many sites, including Israel Matzav under the heading “Where are the police?” ( click here  to view). The video shows people ransacking a French supermarket, wearing green t-shirts with the words Boycott Israel on them, removing all Israeli goods from the shelves. Not one person — not the store managers, not the other shoppers, no one — dared to stop them.  People just stood and watched. Perhaps they thought there were too many of them to fight… but, apparently, no one thought to call the police, either.

Naomi Ragen’s recent email newsletter where she copied an article by David J. Rusin of www.islamist-watch.org entitled The Slow-Motion Exodus of European Jews  also highlights the terrible situation which is again rising in Europe. Rusin starts off with the opinion of Dutch politician and former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein regarding Orthodox Jews in his country [can the same situation for non-religious Jews be far behind? – c.l.] who believes that

there is no future for this group in the Netherlands because of the “anti-Semitism among Dutchmen of Moroccan descent, whose numbers keep growing.”

The author then goes on to describe the situations in  a number of other European countries from which Jews are exiting and/or encountering anti-semitism on a regular basis. Among them are  Sweden, France, UK, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Austria.

Echoing this same sentiment about Dutch Jews is Guilio Meotti in his January 17, 2011, opinion piece on Israel National News entitled Jews Must Flee Holland in 2011. He cites the failure of  Dutch multi-culturalism for the rising tide of anti-semitism. Perhaps the scariest part is in his second paragraph :

…to highlight the complaint of a Dutch journalist, Paul Andersson Toussaint: “Antisemitism in Holland is again salonfähig”. This word means socially acceptable. 

 Post-Holocaust Europe is no more; the anti-semitism that we thought had disappeared was really simmering below. The argument generally made is that it’s really the large Muslim population dominating many European countries that is responsible for the situation. But a country and people that allows this to happen is responsible just the same.

So why did we make aliyah? Noa thought that perhaps it’s the U.S. economy which is motivation for many to leave… Mostly, however, we didn’t leave the U.S. per se – we made aliyah so that we could  live in our land and fulfill our Jewish destiny as I discussed in my first blog post A Jew in Context.

But, despite the fact that most Americans probably are not anti-semitic and  would be revolted by it, there have been increasing anti-semitic incidents in the United States (and in Canada) as well as rising anti-semitism on college campuses; Jews have generally been afraid to “make waves” even in the U.S. so as not to engender anti-semitism. So what about anti-semitism in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, in this medina shel chesed – this nation of kindness –  as Orthodox Jews in the U.S. often refer to it? I referred her to Caroline Glick’s website and her most recent column, which was originally published in the Jerusalem Post, Israel as the banana republic. She discusses two documents which she says “…  indicate that in certain quarters of the American government Israel is viewed as at best a banana republic and at worst an enemy of the US. ”  The first, published last Wednesday in The Washington Times,  is the 2004 FBI  27-page search warrant affidavit used to target then-senior AIPAC lobbyist Steve Rosen. The second, from Wikileaks, is a 2008 cable signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, under the Bush administration, directing US officials to spy on Israel. The FBI affidavit, you might be surprised to discover, makes it clear that they had no reason to suspect Steve Rosen of any wrongdoing, yet they followed him for five years and indicted him, destroying his career, his reputation and that of his collegue Keith Weissman, the reputation of AIPAC, the State of Israel, and its American Jewish supporters. Of the Wikileaks document Caroline says:

Just days before the 2008 presidential elections, the secretary of state instructed US diplomats in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA to conduct a massive espionage operation against Israel.

Anti-semitism in the United States?  Take an honest  look before you decide.