Eli Sperling: Domestic Issues, Often Overlooked by American Jews, Significant Factor in Determining Israel’s Future
Typical gridlock-traffic in Tel Aviv during rush hour. Photo: Dim Schliefman

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,” as a reaction to these findings. In it, he describes how this 60% 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 as a result of our focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Highlighting his grim outlook, Tal states, “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 2017 Pew study, “American and Israeli Jews: Twin Portraits ,” shows that 38% of Israelis view security threats/violence/terrorism as the most important long-term problem facing Israel. 66% of US Jews share this sentiment. The same study shows that 39% of Israelis see economic problems as the most pressing long-term issue facing the Jewish state. However, only 1% of US Jews agree with this consensus.

Further, according to Prof. Reuven Hazan, Hebrew University Chair in Israeli Democracy and Politics, only 37% of Israelis feel economically secure, while 62% feel confident militarily. He similarly shows that 66% of Israelis see socio-economic change as the number one issue of importance for their government to address. Only 31% see 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, as well as rising poverty rates are often more of a concern to Israelis than the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. 

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