Seven Weeks in Israel
We are frequent visitors to Israel and have been going there for the past 35 years. We recently returned with our heads filled with visions and sights that resonate with pride and excitement at the unbelievable growth and prosperity that we witnessed as we drove around the country.
What we noticed immediately were the automobiles. No longer do Israelis drive around in cars 10 years old, but are racing around (and I do mean racing) in all the same models that we drive here. What makes this so extraordinary is that they have to pay at least twice as much as we do, due to the high taxes that are added to the cost of the car. In addition, large SUVs seem to be popular even though the price of gas is nearly $8 a gallon. The cars are choking the roads and while Israel tries to improve the infrastructure of its highways, it can’t seem to keep up with the number of automobiles that the Israelis are driving.
The next sight that met our eyes was literally hundreds of building cranes reaching to the sky. Driving from the airport to the city of Netanya, where we stayed, we passed through Tel Aviv. In the center of the city, there were buildings rising up 30 stories or more; some commercial and others residential. In Herzylia, we passed by the offices of some of the largest high-tech companies in the world. A number of high-rise apartments were also being built in Netanya. These apartments were far from being reasonably priced (even by our standards). Near the Mediterranean coast a price of 2,500,000 shekels ($675,000) for a two-bedroom apartment was considered normal.
And along with the growth of these communities huge shopping malls were being erected. Beautiful, shiny bright malls filled with every designer label store and more. On Friday mornings, kiosks offered delectable, freshly prepared foods for Shabbat; bakeries had shelves overflowing with all manner of breads, rolls, cookies, cakes and pastries and the aisles were crowded with shoppers. The new mall we visited in south Netanya had underground parking for more than 1,000 and above ground parking as well.
Israel’s highly skilled technical work force has brought Israel into the forefront of the worlds’ economy. Natural gas drilling platforms are retrieving gas from the Mediterranean sea off the northern coast, which will make Israel energy independent. In addition, new desalinization plants are currently using the sea water to resolve Israel’s water shortage.
However, Israel’s population of 7.6 million still has its share of problems. There have been public protests against the high cost of living, such as the price of housing, transport, childcare, food and fuel. Recently, its health care system suffered a budget cut NIS 150 million (about $40 million). The chairman of the Israel Medical Association said that, “there is no doubt the medical system needs much more funding to meet its needs”. Therefore, it becomes obvious that outside assistance from organizations such as Hadassah will be a continuing necessity for the foreseeable future.
We returned from our trip filled with enthusiasm and zeal, knowing that our support for Israel will be even greater than before and look forward to our next trip.