Society problems

Israel’s Challenges for the New Year: Economy and Society

As Israelis celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on Sunday evening, the Jewish state will have to negotiate several turning points in the coming months that could prove decisive for its future, whether in the political, diplomatic, military, social or economic. .

The following is a brief overview of the main problems facing the Jewish state in i24NEWS journalists.

COST OF LIFE

It is now a well-known refrain: we pay much more in Israel than elsewhere.

The rise in prices is becoming more and more unbearable for an ever larger proportion of Israelis.

The strengthening of the shekel could have lowered the prices of imported products, “could” being the key word. In a market where competition is weak, inflation and the rise in interest rates in recent months have not helped to reduce household bills. It was a declared priority of the new government, but it is proving to be an uphill battle and the authorities seem helpless.

For David Neeman, a journalist specializing in economics, Israel will have to contain the impact of global inflation on the country, at the risk of seeing prices continue to soar. However, he remains optimistic.

“Israel’s advantage lies in its monetary leeway acquired thanks to the budgetary rigor in place for twenty years,” he explains.

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“Israel has a very low debt ratio compared to the West, despite the pandemic. Dollar reserves are full, the shekel is very strong and interest rates are lower than in the United States, so the Bank of Israel can raise rates if inflation ever gets out of hand,” adds he.

Meanwhile, many Israelis are leaving the country, angered by the cost of living. The number of departures remains marginal but they reveal a very real disarray.

IMMOVABLE

Real estate remains the favorite topic of conversation among Israelis. The inexorable rise in prices is at the center of the concerns of those who fear that they will never be able to acquire a property. Supply is far below demand and accelerating housing construction will become a national priority as the population continues to grow and its needs will therefore increase.

TRANSPORTATION

The launch of the first light rail line in Tel Aviv, scheduled for late November, is a game-changer and, supposedly, a sign of things to come. The express goal of the project is to decongest the central region, plagued by huge traffic jams.

Neeman points out that “much has already been done in the field of transport in recent years”, including an extension of the planned railway lines to Kyriat Shmona in the north, and to Eilat in the south. In the meantime, traffic jams, which affect the whole country, are “the scourge of Israelis’ daily lives”, and therefore “undermine their productivity”.

ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY

Prospects for high-tech, the main driver of the country’s economy over the past decade, are quite good and continue to justify the nickname Start-Up Nation, despite the crisis that the sector experienced before the summer.

According to Fleur Sitruk, editor-in-chief of i24NEWS‘ Innov’Nation Magazine, “next year holds great opportunities for investors in Israel, especially with regard to so-called ‘seeds’, or nascent startups, as the global crisis has led to market stabilization and readjustment the value of previously overvalued companies.”

While 2022 got off to a slower start than 2021, which hit record highs in investment, Israeli companies still raised nearly $10 billion in the first half.

“Sectors that are on the rise are of course still cybersecurity, fintech, IoT (“internet of things”) and food tech. We are also witnessing the emergence of a new field which is experiencing exponential growth: “climate tech” (sustainable innovation), with more than 700 specialized companies, confirming the capacity of Israeli high-tech to adapt to new issues in the global economy,” adds Sitruk.

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INEQUALITY

Israel has experienced an unprecedented economic boom over the past decade, linked in particular to the great success of the high-tech sector and to substantial investments. The country has nearly 107,000 millionaires out of a population of 9.7 million (one for 90!), but also has to deal with growing social inequalities, considered to be among the highest in the world.

Half of the population earns an average of only 57,900 shekels per year (16,930 euros) while the richest 10% of the country earn 1,096,300 shekels (320,700 euros), or 19 times more.

“There is a high-tech powerhouse whose workers are earning a very good living and the rest of the economy, apart from a few sectors here and there, is lagging behind, especially in terms of remuneration which is not keeping up with the rise in the cost of living,” notes Dror Even-Sapir.

THE ARAB COMMUNITY

Violence within the Arab community remains a matter of great concern.

A total of 126 murders were recorded in 2021 and the numbers are expected to be similar in 2022.

In addition to the tragedies for the families of the victims and the appalling reality that it conceals, this violence also reveals the existence of powerful criminal organizations in Israel which act with total impunity. The authorities are for the moment the helpless witnesses of this disastrous spectacle. And until this violence is brought under control, crime will continue to thrive.

“Internal violence has not been contained and is endemic,” says Even-Sapir. “It’s hard to see how this could not have repercussions for the rest of Israeli society,” he adds.

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NEW RUSSIAN ALYAH

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a direct impact on Israel: the country has already taken in 24,000 Russian immigrants, mostly anti-war, who have benefited from the law of return to settle in the state Hebrew. Israel also took in 19,000 Ukrainians, many of whom were only granted refugee status, not citizenship.

“Paradoxically, it is mainly Jews from Russia who come to Israel,” notes Pierre Klochendler, correspondent for i24NEWS.

“With the partial mobilization announced last week, Israel expects a new wave of immigration from Russia in the weeks and months to come,” he explains.

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The Jewish state is now tasked with absorbing these broad waves, though this is hardly new after the ultimately successful integration of nearly a million Jews from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.

Jerusalem now has the responsibility of guaranteeing Russian Jews who so wish the possibility of making aliyah, the Jewish Agency of Moscow being the subject of a repression by the Kremlin.

Above all, Israel must continue its balancing act of condemning Russian abuses in Ukraine while cajoling its diplomatic relations with Moscow, in order to continue to drive Jews out of the country and ensure its freedom of action against Iranian forces. and pro-Iranians in Syria. .

CULTURE

Amid this wave of challenges, a positive vibe is emerging from a film released earlier this month that will represent the country at the Oscars.

“Cinema Sabaya” by director Orit Fouks Rotem features eight women, four Jews and four Arabs, who take part in a film class. Their interactions reflect with disconcerting realism and without a trace of Manichean binaries, the complexity of Israeli reality, made up of paradoxes, conflicts and humanity.

“Cinema Sabaya” is a joyous and important film that offers an intelligent perspective, attached to reality and far from crude anti-Israeli clichés; it is a rare object of tenderness, finesse, uprightness. That is to say, many of the ingredients that Jews celebrating Rosh Hashanah hope to taste in their holiday meal in order to give the coming year a truly special flavor.

Shana Tova.