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Kol Yisrael arevim ze b’-ze—the Talmudic injunction for all Jews to assume responsibility for their co-religionists’ welfare. It is a powerful concept which, when translated into sovereign terms, enjoins all Israelis to take responsibility for their fellow citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
This principle, enshrined in Israel’s national health care system, ideally should apply to society as a whole. Challenging this effort, though, is Israel’s transformation from a largely agrarian state with relatively little stratification into a high-tech powerhouse with one of the world’s widest social gaps. A mere 20% of the population now pays 92% of the country’s taxes, and that percentage is dwindling. Nearly a million and a half children now live beneath the poverty line in Israel.
This is an impossible situation for a Jewish state. While free market capitalism is essential for expanding Israel’s economic power—and its military strength—it must be balanced with social policies and safety nets for those unable to experience the new Israeli dream. In the Jewish state, one cannot simply step over the homeless in the street.
Achieving that balance will require Israel, on the one hand, to continue deregulating and eliminating the bureaucracy that stunts economic growth, while on the other, earmarking part of those profits to provide economic opportunities for all. This will include building additional high-tech centers outside of Greater Tel Aviv and establishing technical vocational schools
(see below). It will also necessitate revising the payment of subsidies to large families—Jewish and Arab—that relieve the parents of the families of the need to work. Muslim women and Ultra-Orthodox men must be incentivized and trained to enter the workforce (see below) and guaranteed a livable minimum wage.
Israel must not become a welfare state but neither can it be a heartless state. Ultimately, the vision of a thriving yet humane Israel can only be achieved by planning now for our economic, educational, and health-care future.
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