Friday, January 19

Cutting poverty by paying even less money...

Zaqi , Aysha & Mahmoud (respectively 8, 6 and 3 years old) share one winter blanket with their mother, Fatma. The older sisters, Zeinab, Sharifa and Amina (aged 13, 16 and 18) share the other winter blanket owned by the family. They sleep on matresses on the floor, huddled together in one room, because of the cold. Social services have promised beds, the family has been waiting for 2 years now, after the previous beds fell apart during the move to yet another flat.
The children are often ill during the winter, so they miss out on a lot of school.
The mother is almost blind (waiting for an operation, which hopefully will save or even improve the little eyesight she has) and suffers from arthritis in her hands and back in spite of her young age.
She has always worked as a cleaner but can no longer do so. She has applied for "nehut klalit" (invalid's pay) but her case has not gone through the system yet. Right now the family survives on 502 NIS (about $ 120) a month "havtahat hahnasa" (social security) and child allowances, another 1500 NIS (another 300 $) a month. Imagine a family with 6 kids living of $520 a month.
The family lives in social housing, but as the mother has not paid the 200 NIS rent for several months nnow, the housing company is threatening to evict them.
That's poverty. True, a few NGO's occasionally donate food, clothing and schoolbooks. But these children do not get medicine when they are ill, the mother cannot afford the not so small fee for 5 days moxypen or whatever else is needed when a child is ill.
These kids NEVER go on schooltrips, as the mother owes money to the schools. She knows it's illegal, to single out her kids, but what can she do?

The government is discussing the means needed for fighting poverty. One of the ideas suggested is reducing child allowances, and providing dinners at school. In a country where one out of every three children lives below the poverty line that's close to criminal:
Many children do not go to school, because of their young age (in Jaffa there is a waiting list for the kindergardens), because they are ill, or because they drop out (the school drop-out rate in Jaffa for Arab students is 49% according to the municipality, 53% according to the Jaffa community).
Dropping out is worst among the poorest. Moreover, until a student is registered as a "real" drop out, usually there is a period of about 2 years of "hidden" dropping out, during which the kid sometimes goes to school, so he or she is still registered. Thus the actual drop-out rates are even higher, MUCH higher. The schools receive money per child, so even when a child hardly ever comes to school (like 14 year old H, who went to school for 2 days this year, or 12 year old O, who has visisted school for 5 days, since September). If indeed, the government will carry out this plan (cutting child allowances and transferring the money to school dinners), the weakest children will be hurt the most.
And ofcourse during the holidays, all children will be hurt, as none actually go to school, but perhaps our brilliant politcians forgot that little detail, alienated as they are from reality.

But the children mentioned above are not the only ones to be hurt by this evil scheme. As a professor ar Ben Gurion University (forgot her name) recently pointed out in a radio interview: When talking about the poor, people often think "big families in the Orthodox Jewish sector and Arab children", but in reality many first children from many families are poor: the young families of young first children are just starting on their way, having many expenses and as yet not a good income. Child allowances for the first child have been cut worse than the rest. This measure will not just hurt very low income families but also many lower middle class families just starting out.

Another, much better, plan is removing the VAT payments from food. Now that WOULD truly help poor families, whose income mostly goes to food. It will really assist them, i hope the plan will be carried through.

Poverty in Israel and elsewhere is foremost a matter of human rights, of social justice. It has been caused first of all by politicians, making decisions that serve the needs of their wealthy friends. It is not "natural", nor does it "just happen". It is the worst form of disicrimination against children.

The children's names have been changed.
Today the family will receive a heater and 2 big winter blankets from an NGO, whom I alerted.


Lirun said...

well done..

שבת שלום

The Raccoon said...

She produced 6 children she couldn't provide for.

That's child abuse.

How, exactly, is the government responsible for Fatima's... interesting... decision?

yudit said...

So, Raccon, the children should die of hunger, because their mum was "stupid" or "a child-abuser"?

The Raccoon said...

Yudit -

No. Even though one of the freedoms offered by a democracy is the freedom to starve to death.

But by rewarding the mother, the State would be encouraging such behavior in the future. Which means dooming thousands, if not millions, to poverty. Does this appear to a desirable outcome?

Perhaps the best solution in this case would be state-funded boarding schools for such children... and obligatory family planning lessons to women like Fatima. In my opinion, the decision to bring children that you cannot feed into the world is a criminal one.

yudit said...

"one of the freedoms offered by a democracy is the freedom to starve to death".

It has been a very long time since i read a sentence as horrid, awful and sinister as this one.

"Kol Israel areivim ze laze", all of Israel are responsible, one for the other has been my motto for a long time, and i expand it to my beighbors as well.
I believe in social responsibility. I believe it is a crime to let epople die of hunger. A crime against humaity. No less.

Only in the most scary totalitarian systems, are taken children away from their "non-deserving" parents to "raise them, in the right ideology".
Are mothers whose ideas do not fit yours forced to undergo obligatory family planning.

And on anther tone: i wonder if you have visitied an Israeli boardingschool. Many are in pretty sorry state. I doubt if you would send your kids, if you have them, to them.

The Raccoon said...

Yudit -

I fail to see what you find so horrid in a simple statement about democracy.

And yes, kol Israel arevim ze laze indeed. Which does not mean that a part of am Israel should be the servants and providers for the rest - those who are too lazy or foolish to provide for themselves.

If you believe it is a crime to let people die of hunger, how can you condone Fatima's behavior? If you believe in social responsibility, how come you are unwilling to hold Fatima to a simple - indeed low - standard of responsibility towards her children?

In all healthy societies, children are taken away from abusive parents. In all healthy societies, citizens with obvious problems to exist in a society are helped.

It's simple - a mother who brought into the world 6 children she cannot provide for is either stupid, insane, ignorant or criminal. I would presume first or third.

And I was brought up in an Israeli boarding school. I do not yet have children, but when I will, I will not have to send them to a boarding school - I will never commit the crime of bringing children I cannot provide for into this world.

Social responsibility is not a unilateral thing. Would you like Fatima's 6 children to grow up and each have 6 children they cannot provide for? Does this seem humane and reasonable to you?

yudit said...

The mother is a lovely, wonderful person, trying to do as well as she can. A good enough mother, a good mother.
Being poor, is not a crime as yet. Although many of the well to do bubble residents in this country like to think so.
Taking children away from a wonderful loving and caring mother is a crime.
You accuse the mother of being several things , insane, abusive and more.
That's quite a dare. Even professional psychiatrists wouldn't dare, nor "pkidot sa'ad", without having met her.
Her problem: she's poor.She has worked most of her life for wealthy people, cleaning their houses, their dirt. She always worked very hard and provided, was independent. But then her health gave away, i guess that's a crime to by your counting.
She's almost blind ow, her hands barely function.
And the national insurance institute for a number of burocratic reasons, which over time surely will be modified, cut her allowance.
So now, as a nice punishment, because of the gross incompetence of the pkidut, she should also loose her kids and her kids her? A goodcaring wise mother? Judged by you to be a criminal.
Have you met her? Have you seen her? All on account of being poor?
Who are you to decide that?
What's your point?

Also if you had read well, you would have noticed i was relating, through a specific story, to something more general: not cutting child allowances and transferring to money to schooldinners, as that would hurt a number of the weakest children in society badly.

And funny enough (or sad enough) it would hurt many young working families with one or two children most badly. Many tend to think of large orthodox families or large Arab families as "poor".
Yet in reality it is many young families, just starting out, who are poor. And, as stated before, "working poor". They have many expenses but no financial security as yet.

You do not at all relate to that point, but instead allow yourself to judge a situation about which you do not know a lot.

I am aware there are those who believe poor children should be taken away, believing "the system" can do better. This was done, on a fairly grand scale, in Scandinavia and Switzerland (Gypsy children) as well as Australia (Aboriginee children) in the fifties and even sixties, often by people who "meant well". Believing their middle class ideas and values to be superior, they literally stole children from their poor so-called "dysfunctional" homes and transferred them to boarding schools that did not respect the children's culture, roots, families, habits and abilities.
The results were disastrous, horrid.

I agree with you that when parents are truly, really abusive, (and poverty is NOT that), physically, sexually or psychologically, children need protection from them. Israel has a law called "hok noar, tipul ve'hasgaha" for that.
The juvenile courts decide to take children into care, when they are in danger at home.
Guess what, there are over 1000 children WAITING. The courts have decided they should no longer live at home, yet there is no place (nor budget) to place them elsewhere.
And when i say waiting, i'm relating to 1 year, two years and more of waiting in an truly abusive home.
Especially for Arab girls in severe distress (victims of beating, incest etc) there are almost no places.

By your reasoning, the majority of the orthodox Jewish children should be stolen from their parents, as the parents live on state payments and do not work. The same goes for many of the working poor (people earning a minimum wage).

One out of every three Israeli children is poor (Central buro of statistics), so should all these children be placed in fostercare or boarding schools?

Or should we perhaps export them to wealthy childless people abroad? After all, by your reasoning, the well to do are better parents.

Or perhaps should, by your reasoning, poor women be operated upon, or forced to take the pill. After all, it's only the rich who should be allowed to have children?

Social responsibility in my opinion, means providing at least a liveable wage to those who work. And liveable payments for those who can not, because of illness, age or whatever.
It means defining basic rights such as school, a home, food etc. for all members of the society i live in.
And if that means the the better to do will have to give up a little of their wealth, then yes, that's fine by me.
A day will come, when you (or your children or your parents), raccoon, may need assistance. And i belive it is my duty to provide that as a society.
A society that doesn't provide for its needy, is, imho, a criminal society.
Social injustice is a crime.

The Raccoon said...

Yudit -

It is unfortunate that you choose and pick from my points so that the answer would fit into some sort of Marxist class struggle framework.

Let us start by stating that I was, at times, worse off financially than this woman. I got no handouts - I worked my ass off, carefully planning every step... and now I am doing fine.

Wages are not provided - wages are earned. Or taken. Never... given. This is the beauty of capitalistic democracy - you are free to succeed or fail.

It is the duty of the parents - not the state - to provide food, lodging, clothing, school etc to their children.

To be continued.

yudit said...

Raccoon, i would like to see you "work off your ass" after you've become almost blind and your hands are partially functional. I do not believe you would make it. And by YOUR ideas we should then let you die, after all, it's your problem, that you canot work. And if your children die of hunger than that's fine too, by that same logic. Or we could take them to be "reducated" (your idea, not mine)

I realize you and me differ in our ideologies, me thinking extreme capitalism is a crime against humanity. Nothing less.

But as i believe in peaceful means, my virtual pen will fight.

Especially because you have experienced poverty as you say (and, for that matter i have also found myself in a situation wondering to buy bread or rice,as i could not afford both, yes i have been poor as well as hungry)i would expect perhaps, more sensitivity.
What "pleases" me is that you have shown your true skin, it does not matter that people are poor, for all you care they can die poor in the street.
Only the able should have a life.

There are a great many people like you, believing we have no responsibility for others, less fortunate than we.

Those ideas are so far from mine on social justice, on the need to actively provide children a true opportunity, on the need for a liveable wage, on the need for decent (public) housing, health and education for all, that we don't seem to have much in common. Although i am NOT reliougs i REALLY believe we are responsbile one for another as in Jewish tradition, as i said before, "kol Israel areivim, ze laze". And i take that seriously and expand it to all people in my surrondings.

And something more:

today's Yediot Ahronot

"UN official: Child poverty in Israel attests to government's failure:,7340,L-3364172,00.html

Published: 02.12.07, 15:46 / Israel News

A high rate of children living under the poverty line represents a failure of the government's policy, Chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Jaap Doek said.

Speaking at the Beer Sheva Conference for Child Welfare, Doek added that "children living under the poverty line constitute an emergency situation that warrants immediate action." (Yael Barnovsky)

The Raccoon said...

Yudit -

Not only do you pick and choose from my words to paint a strange picture in a Marxist framework, you also infer the strangest things about me. Why?

Poverty is not a disease - it's a choice and an addictive habit. Kind of like smoking.

Eventually I will become completely handicapped, not partially as I am now. By then I will be well prepared for my dusk. Planning - such as family planning - goes a long way.

Next: "re-education". How did you come up with this strange notion? Giving children who lack food, lodging, clothing, education etc all of these things is "re-education"? That'd surprise and amuse Joseph Vissariononich, I am sure. Same about Chairmain Mao.

"Shown your true skin" I wasn't aware of me being a doppleganger.

"There are a great many people like you, believing we have no responsibility for others, less fortunate than we."

What has fortune got to do with it? Fatima has made a choice. An apt quote; "luck is the residue of design" - John Milton.

Also, please note what I wrote in earlier comments about social responsibility.

You seem to believe that the best solution to ignorance and wrong decision process is... just giving people things. In the very short run, it's fine and dandy. In the long run, it's ruinous for the society.

Enter the Chinese proverb - "Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for one day. Teach him to fish, and he'll eat all his life"

The only (feasible) socially responsible approach to situations such as Fatima's is education. I doubt that she can now be really helped. Leaving her children to rot, as you suggest, seems criminal to me (to use your terminology). They will suffer all their lives. Why not help them when you can?

You want to give them a fish. I want to teach them to fish.

I will not even get into public housing and such - the discussion would be too tedious.


The one-in-three (or something) under poverty line thing. I am well under the poverty line, for instance. Which does not actually prevent me from having a good life, enough food, clothes, internet connection, entertainment, a roof above my head - all the basics.

Why? Because I am responsible enough not to have children before I can provide for them. Note that the majority of the really poor in Israel are either Arabs or Haredim. Both are thus pretty much by choice. You seem to believe their children and indeed the whole state should suffer due to these choices. Does this appear to be reasonable to you?

And yes, the govnment is being habitually stupid, slow and useless about this. They prefer having as little as possible to do with the Arabs and the Haredim - knowing full well that these communities are explosive and anything at all could set them off - especially if we're talking about education. Because education, education and more education is that desperately needed thing, and the immediate action that needs to be taken.