Ha’aretz has a devastating article on the complete breakdown of welfare and emergency shelter services during this war:
The HFC found itself dealing with purely civilian matters: a pharmacy owner who closed his drug store and went south, a bus company that discontinued service, bank branches that closed and left people without money.
In the HFC, the view is that they can’t serve as an alternative to the state or the local government. “Those that were weak beforehand did not get weak because of the war,” says [Colonel Yuval] Kimhi [ the head of the HFC Policy and Development Department].
The quality of the treatment of the citizen under rocket fire, they were willing to admit in HFC, largely depends on the quality of the local authority in which he lives. The HFC does not think it is its job or the job of the government to “pamper” the citizen. They even think that it is their job to educate the citizenry not to be pampered. That is why they object to putting the evacuees up in hotels, for fear that they may “develop a habit.” That is why they do not think it is necessary to send food to the shelters.
“The subject of the shortage of food came up in one of the assessments,” says Captain Rami Peltz, the head of the HFC Population Behavior Department. “It was decided that as little food as possible should be actually brought to the people. They need to come and get the food themselves. The natural tendency is to pity the people without seeing the long-term implications of that treatment. If we bring food to people in the shelter, we are increasing their sense of helplessness. People will say: ‘Feed me, chew for me.’ It could continue even after the situation is over.”
In other words, this is the Israeli version of Hurricane Katrina, with one major difference – private Israelis, haredi, National Religious, secular and everything in between, have done amazing work helping literally hundreds of thousands of refugees stay fed, clothed, housed and safe, while the government has done – by design – almost nothing.
Chief among the heros is haredi journalist turned philanthropist Dudi Zilbershlag, whose organization, Meir Panim, combined with other nonprofits – mostly secular ones – to form a united front to provide services. Ha’aretz details this and then adds this bone-chilling quote from Zilbershlag:
“The evacuation was done on a first come, first served basis,” says Zilbershlag. “Everything was done by private organizations. Nochi Dankner [secular] gave 1,000 hotel accommodations, Gaydamak [secular] set up the tent city [at a cost of more than $500,000 per day], Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman of Migdal Ha’emek evacuated thousands of people. None of the government ministries wanted to go near the matter. The matter of the refugees in the center of the country hasn’t been dealt with at all and it is a huge subject. People have remained without money, without work. There are hair-raising stories.”
Notable in his silence is former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose cuts devastated Israel’s welfare system.
Olmert and his cast of under-qualifed, bumbling politicos must go. New elections cannot come soon enough.