|NGOs, Academics and the Poor Demand an End to Poverty|
A unique forum of NGOs, people living below the poverty line, academics and representatives of the Jerusalem Municipality called on Israel to launch a strategic five year plan to reduce poverty at the second International Day for the Eradication of Poverty at the Knesset on October 19th. The day was marked in Israel for the second year in a row as a result of NIF-funded and SHATIL-led advocacy efforts by the Forum, whose aim is to advance policies that will reduce poverty and increase public attention and support for anti-poverty measures.
The day’s goal was to "create a dialogue between members of Parliament and people living in poverty" and to "give a voice to the country's poor," Israel Prize winner Prof. Yonah Rosenfeld, chair of the Israel Forum for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, told the Jerusalem Post.
The representatives for the poor encouraged the country's leaders to see them as partners in the struggle to find a solution, rather than as victims. “We have the expertise,” they said. “But our knowledge is not used.”
The Forum released new data showing that 98 percent of Israelis want the government to increase spending to help the poor and more than 50 percent are willing to see their taxes increased to bridge social gaps.
Today, 1.63 million Israelis live below the poverty line and their numbers – even among those employed -- are rising. Data released the same day by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed that 29 percent of Israelis who are not yet poor are at risk of becoming so.
The day was marked by a special discussion in the Knesset plenary with the participation of Social Affairs Minister Yitzhak Herzog, a conference on the social price of poverty featuring those living in poverty, Minister Herzog, Knesset Chair Ruby Rivlin and discussions on how to tackle the problem in key Knesset committees.
"Poverty doesn't happen on its own like a virus people can't get rid of," SHATIL Director Ronit Heyd wrote in the Walla news site. "It is maintained and perpetuated by government policies and decisions that we, the public, more or less quietly accept; we who meanwhile manage to live – maybe while shaking our heads – with the difficult phenomena of poverty and social gaps in Israel….Until we demand – through demonstrations, elections, petitions and dialogue with Knesset and government members – that the government stop perpetuating the social gaps, we will not see a true, deep and thorough effort to eradicate poverty in Israel. And from this, we will all suffer."
The day was widely covered in the media, including front page stories in leading newspapers and leading spots on television and radio news broadcasts.