Anyone trying to understand why Israel does not have a fundraising culture needs to look no further than the tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. I know that the demonstrations are not about charity and non-profit life. But the events of these past weeks offer some vital insights into the future of the Third Sector and philanthropy in Israel.
On the most obvious level, what Israelis are saying is that they simply cannot make ends meet. I don’t know how much American Jews fully grasp the appalling status of Israelis salaries. The average monthly salary in Israel is somewhere in the range of $2000-2500 gross. Even two people working full time with those salaries, with say two or three small children and an average mortgage of $1500-2000 a month, will have a lot of difficulty meeting expenses. The newspapers these past few weeks have been filled with stories of people – highly educated, well-trained, and hard working people holding good jobs – whose living expenses are simply higher than their income. Sure, everyone has different ways to cut costs – moving to a moshav, bicycling to work, no afterschool lessons for the kids, second-hand clothes and books, never going out to eat or even ordering pizza, no cable, no second car, certainly no cleaning help and probably no gym membership, and definitely no family vacations to Europe. Instead, there is a lot of overdraft – some 80% of Israelis are living in overdraft, according to some estimates – and definitely no savings.