|Pushing 8,000 Families Above the Poverty Line|
|Written by Tamara Symonds|
At a conference in Herzeliya last Monday, Meir Cohen, Israel's Minister of Welfare, announced a new goal: "Pushing 8,000 families above the poverty line." A newly formed committee will convene in the coming month to create a comprehensive plan establishing measurable objectives for reduction of poverty in Israel. Minister Cohen says the plan, "the National Program to Combat Poverty," will be brought before the government for approval within three months.
Minister Cohen's announcement comes in the wake of the SHATIL-coordinated Social Budget Forum's yearlong campaign. One of the Forum's primary focuses was to compel the government to establish measurable objectives towards reducing poverty – which was deemed by some activists as a highly ambitious endeavor, equivalent, in the words of one of them, to "planting a flag on the moon." To achieve our goal, we met with Members of Knesset, ran online campaigns, generated media coverage, and more.
The Social Budget Forum includes more than 30 organizations, many of them NIF grantees, from established players such as Yedid and Rabbis for Human Rights to groups of activists that emerged from the 2011 social justice protests.
Social gaps in Israel have been getting increased attention in light of a report by the OECD, which revealed that Israel has the highest poverty rate among developed countries. One in three Israeli children lives in poverty and Israel is ranked fifth in income gaps between rich and poor, after Chile, Mexico and Turkey. Furthermore, the situation is deteriorating, with the poverty rate growing from 13.8% in 1995 to 21% today.
Following approval of the State Budget, Forum activists resolved to continue efforts in order to get the government to establish social objectives. Now that the government is adopting specific objectives to combat poverty in Israel, SHATIL and the Forum will continue working to ensure that objectives pertaining to additional social maladies such as lack of affordable and public housing, health inequities and unemployment, are also addressed more effectively and systematically.