Monday, July 16, 2012

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Why is Everyone Angry at Bituach Leumi?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Bituach Leumi, the Israel National Insurance Institute, is the equivalent of the United States Social Security Administration + Medicare/Medicare/Obamacare + the State Welfare Office or in Great Britain Social Service + Pension Service +  partially the National Health Service.

News this week from Israel has included a social protestor lighting himself on fire due to not qualifying for help from the Israel National Insurance Institute, a woman lighting an office of the National Insurance Institute on fire in Eilat due to a delay in assistance payments, and a vandalization assault on the National Insurance Institute office in Tel Aviv.

I was asked the question: Why is everyone angry at Bituach Leumi – the Israel National Insurance Institute?

In the secular world, if your family can't help all you've got is the government.  In Israel such help takes the form of Bituach Leumi, the National Insurance Institute.  They provide or manage programs for:

1. Disability.  Disabled or non-functional citizens get support payments, according to a percentage disabled and in line with their particular need.

2. Income support.  Welfare payments for those unable to earn an income.

3. Old Age Pension.

4. Survivors benefits.  Orphans of a covered person will receive support payments.

5. Health care coverage.  Citizens of Israel and legal residents get health care coverage via Bituach Leumi, provided by one of the 4 Israeli health care organizations.

6. Child welfare.  Every citizen mother of a child under 18 gets a payment monthly per child.

7. Various other benefits, such as short term sickness payments (Bituach Leumi pays the sick time from work), army reserve duty payments, death-burial payment, terrorism victim payments (G-d forbid), birth payment (a gift check from the country for your newborn) and more.

Unfortunately, Bituach Leumi is not known for their customer service, efficiency, or effectiveness.  Rather they are known for arcane rules, slow processes, and not so occasional mistakes.

The result is that people on the very edge and in serious need may find themselves in processes that take months to years to complete.  They may find themselves disqualified for seemingly arcane reasons from benefits they appear to deserve and desperately need.

This is not an indictment of Bituach Leumi.  They operate by government mandate, following government laws and regulations as well as the results of decades of court cases on various issues.  There are tens of thousands of such rules they have to follow, the results often being less than optimal.  Further, like any government agency they’re not incented – they’re just doing their job. 

The question is why people feel so desperate, yet you don’t (often) find this in the religious or charedi Jewish communities.  There is something WONDERFUL about the frum community - if people fall lots of people help in many ways.  There are literally tons of chesed organizations to which to turn. 

It's not always enough, it's messy and disorganized, but people rarely feel they have no where left to turn.  And when organizations aren’t helping, individuals often step in directly.

Part of Bituach Leumi’s problem is the secular and socialism aspect of the society in which they operate.  When people have no where else to turn, Bituach Leumi is not adequate for many.  When driven by Torah principles society is filled with chesed organizations, Bituach Leumi is part of a basket of community assistance.

And that makes all the difference.

2 comments:

Neshama said...

Maybe destitute Israelis need "food stamps"? At least they won't need to spend cash/overdraft to feed themselves and family.That would help in one area. Donation money from supermarkets could be the source. Just like the manner in which the animals at the National Zoo are fed. I just learned that from Mishpacha Junior! One can learn alot from MJ.

josh said...

I think many more people in Israel are community-aware in an urban environment then elsewhere is expected and can achieve more support on a smaller scale than a large government organization can where bureaucracy is in fact necessary to avoid abuse of benefits, though Yad Sarah and Ezer Metzion should how this can be successfully expanded nationally.

While the Haredi and Dati-leumi communities are not perfect either, and it's not possible to generalize, but certainly, there is a major advantage to being a member of a community with awareness and motivation for volunteerism.

On a side note, the media embrace of this self-immolation is disgusting and directly responsible for all subsequent copycat events in only the past few days. The attempted suicide is attempted murder. It is an extreme act of violence. It also wasn't just some private act in one's home or jumping off a cliff but a mega-attack in the middle of a public demonstration. There was not an attempted massacre, but rather many severely traumatized people resulting from this cruel act and subsequent media support.

We do not live in some third-world country where an act like this is a sacrifice to generate sentiment. We live in a vibrant democracy where people have influence at many levels of government.

The media failed here badly.

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