By RUTH EGLASH
Close to half of Israel's population lives in constant fear that the government's economic policies will force them into a life of extreme poverty, according to a study published Monday to coincide with the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
The day was marked worldwide on October 17, but will take place here among non-profit organizations on Tuesday.
Using a sample of some 500 Israeli adults, the survey, which was conducted by the Forum for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, found that 46 percent of the those polled were in a perpetual state of fear that government policy would cause them to fall below the poverty line. Only a quarter of those questioned for the telephone survey said they felt financially secure in their current situation.
"We deal with this kind of fear every day," commented B., a working mother of five who asked that her real name be withheld. "Both my husband and I work full-time, but we have no outside help and no assistance from the government. We are constantly struggling to make ends meet."
B., who lives in Jerusalem and whose husband works in hi-tech, added, "We live a simple life, and we don't waste money. We have no car and no television, but we still spend more than half of our income on rent. The situation is absurd."
The family will be among those presenting their personal stories Tuesday at a special conference for lawmakers in the Knesset, organized by the Forum for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
"The situation will only change if we are able to put a face on poverty," said Jona Rosenfeld, professor emeritus from the School of Social Work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and from the Unit of Learning from His Success and On-going Learning in Human Services at the JDC-Myers Brookdale Institute. "Studies and surveys will not bring change. Most of these people living in poverty or fear of poverty are anonymous; they do not have voices, and there is no discourse."
Several of the key Knesset committees will focus on poverty during their sessions on Tuesday.
In addition to the financial fears faced by most of the population, the survey found that roughly a quarter (24%) of those questioned admitted they'd had to make serious cutbacks to their budget this year and prioritize food and medicine in their expenses.
While recognizing that this fear derived from the present global economic crisis, some 77% of those questioned said they believed that the fall into poverty was not solely the fault of the individuals, and only 19% said it was the individuals' responsibility to get themselves out of financial difficulties.
In a statement responding to the survey's findings, Hadash MK Dov Henin said, "The results of the poll show that in Israel, the overwhelming majority of people fear for their fate, and don't agree with the government's turbo-capitalist conduct."
"When a quarter of the Israeli population is living in poverty, it's a sign for the Israeli government that it's time to take responsibility, to stop fighting the poor and start fighting poverty," Henin went on.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report
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