Sunday, August 24

Food safety measures and the violence of poverty

Aida fainted last week. From Hunger. She hadn't eaten in two days and that wasn't the first time it happened. She and Ramzi, her husband are both ill, but there is no money for the many medicines they need to take.
Aida doesn't see much, her glasses broke and she fixed them, with tape as there is no money to replace them.
Ramzi used to work transporting and lifting heavy objects such as fridges, washing machines etc. from the age of 18. Now in his late forties, his back and heart give him trouble. Social security recognised him as 30% disabled, not enough to warrant him disability pay. But he can no longer lift heavy things, and has no other job skills.
They have only child allowance as income. 400 NIS a month for them and their 5 young children aged 3-10. (They are supposed to receive 800 NIS, but as Ramzi has not paid national insurance while being ill and not working, he has a debt, which is being deducted) .
Yes, he is trying to correct the situation with the social security, but not being able to read and write makes it complicated.
And in the mean time, they were not able to pay the rent, so the house owner wants them to leave their flat in another two weeks.
They used to receive rent subsidy, but when Ramzi's social security payments were cancelled, the family's rent subsidy was automatically cancelled as well. One only receives rent subsidy is one is dependent on social security. They same goes for the discount in municipal taxes, which was cancelled. Ramzi and Aida don't see a way out.

It's not only Aida and Ramzi and their five kids who live in the small 1 bedroom flat, but also Aida's sister and her 4 children, who were kicked out of their flat two months ago by the bank after they couldn't meet the mortgage payments. That makes three adults and eleven children in a one bedroom flat. Her husband works but as the market is slow, his employer reduced his work to 3.5 days a week, "for the time being". His salary (minimum pay) doesn't always arrive on time. After they were kicked out of their flat, the bank sold it, for a low price. They still owe the bank money, although they paid the mortgage for more than 10 years.

It's almost Ramadan, time for reflection and and meeting the family. Festive dinners after a day of fasting. Well fasting is a regular one at Aida's home, There is no food. The festivities are far away.
School will also be starting for the children. But they do not have the books, pens and notebooks they need.
One of the children, a 10 year old boy, has been found to be extremely gifted and is supposed to enrol in a special educational program for gifted children. But he doesn't sleep well, he's scared of being out in the streets, having no home, nowhere to go. The school promised psychological counselling.
The boy's parents suffer from serious health problems and there is little chance of them finding good employment. Social security has been denied (yes it will probably be returned, but these procedures take time) and in the mean time there is no food. Soon there will be no home. Psychological counselling will not do much good. The young child will probably loose the chance of a lifetime, as the gifted children's program is demanding and the kid doesn't have the energy. Of course the family doesn't have the transport fees (it's in Tel Aviv) so he won't go.

Lately there have been political talks about food safety programs. There are also talks about additional cuts in social security payments in the coming budget.
Cuts cuts and more cuts. If social security payments would be higher and the bureaucracy dealing with them simpler and quicker there would be no need for food safety programs. The same goes of course for raising the minimum wage. After all, 60% of Israel's poor are WORKING poor.

Poverty and keeping people poor is a form of violence. Aida, Ramzi and their children and Aida's sister's family and so many others are victims of that violence.
Israel's ever widening social gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" is ethnically marked.

Almost Ramadan and almost the beginning of the school year, Ajami, Jaffa 2008


Anonymous said...

As far as I understand--in Arab society -- family,clan and tribe is very important .

To summarize:Aida and Ramzi are in their forties,are ill and have 5 young children aged 3-10.Ramzi is working,which is good.

Now here is an opportunity for Aida and Ramzi's family/clan to help or for one of the thousands of very rich Arab charities in the Middle East to help out this family.

--- comment by Akiva

yudit said...

All are Israeli citizens and just like any other citizen, who has paid social security during al of his or her working life, they now need help, real help.
I believe the state has some sort of responsibility towards its poorer and weaker members.
Why should they turn to begging?
What's your point? Arab citizens have less rights than Jewish ones?