in the garden

 

Jan 2004 Journal

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Letter from Israel

Israel's founding fathers not only sought to establish a homeland for the dispersed Jewish people, they also wanted to create a society based on egalitarian principles. Their ideals underlay much of the success of Israel's early years. In time, however, many of these principles were discredited or found to be unworkable. After teetering on the economic brink for years, Israel seemed to be entering a new era of prosperity in the 1990s. There were even hopes of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

But then things started to go wrong. It began with the assassination of Itzhak Rabin in November 1995. Rabin's successor, Ehud Barak, attempted to pursue a peace plan, but was stymied by Arafat's intransigence. Then the second intifada erupted. That pretty much cooked Israel's goose as far as tourism was concerned, and thousands of people in allied industries found themselves out of work. Unfortunately, this coincided with the bursting of the global high-tech bubble. As the world went, so did Israel - only more so, since a large part of its resources and hopes were pinned on that industry.

Economic doom and gloom have been our lot ever since. With escalating unemployment and taxation, and downwardly spiralling income, the present government is seeking to stem the economic tide. Spearheaded by Finance Minister Netanyahu, laws annulling almost every facet of the welfare state Israel once was have been passed. It is a sorry testament to Israel's social legacy when the aspiration to establish a better society is nonchalantly swept aside in the name of increased efficiency and cost-cutting.
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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