Israel’s population has reached almost nine million as the state enters 2019 – however, more than one in five lives in poverty, according to the annual report of the National Insurance Institute.
The state’s population is now 8.972 million, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, with 6.668 million (74.3 percent) of them Jews.
Almost 1.9 million are Arabs (20.9 percent), with 426,000 described as “other”.
Israel’s population has grown by 2 percent in the past year – the average for the preceding decade.
Meanwhile, a total of 1,780,500 people, including 466,400 families and 814,800 children, live below the poverty line, according to the National Insurance report, which was released on Monday.
While poverty among children has fallen, among the elderly, the poverty rate increased from 20.8 percent in 2016 to 21.8 percent in 2017.
The poverty rate among olim – those who immigrated since 1990 – increased from 17.0 percent in 2016 to 18.4 percent in 2017.
The poverty rate for Arab families decreased to 47.1 percent in 2017 from 49.2 percent in 2016, while the poverty rate among ultra-Orthodox families decreased from 45.1 percent in 2016 to 43.1 percent in 2017.
Despite the slight decrease in poverty, Israel still has the highest rate of poverty of any Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development country, said the National Insurance Institute.
The GINI index of inequality showed a slight improvement, but the country continues to remain among those with the highest level of inequality.
“The poverty report is disgraceful in so many ways,” said Eli Cohen, CEO of poverty assistance organisation Pitchon Lev. “It insults Israelis, because the involvement and aspirations of the civil society in assisting the poor in opposition to the obliviousness from the establishment is clearly degrading.”
Itzik Shmuli, and MK of the Zionist Union party, said: “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu speaks of ‘a victorious economy’ and Israel has once again maintained the dubious title of poverty champion of the West.”
He said the current government managed to achieve the impossible – deepen the national deficit and barely improve the social status.
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.
We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”