Earlier today I posted a link on The New Jew: Microblog to an article in Ha’aretz called “Why Israelis Don’t Donate.” We got a good conversation going and I wanted to highlight the ideas that we discussed.
So, according to the author, Lior Dattel, why don’t Israelis donate? He provides three reasons:
- Governance: there’s no incentive in the tax structure
- History: Diaspora giving heavily outweighs national giving
- Social: Little personal culture of giving, as evidenced by low numbers of volunteerism and personal giving
What the Author Missed
But readers, is this valid? Two of my commenters, Joe Brown Leer and Shai Litt thought otherwise.
“The first and foremost issue is that of taxation. In Israel, where taxes reach almost 50% for those who you would want to be giving your “regular” donations (the “standard small” donors of over $1,000 a year to a cause) mean that they don’t have the luxury to be giving MORE to society.
It’s not just that there’s no incentive – there’s a NEGATIVE incentive when taxes are that high.”
“… ‘Little personal culture’ does not take into account the issue of compulsory army service, and its effect on the balance of ‘how much have I given the country already.'”
“Under the circumstances, Israelis are a pretty generous people.
But I’d add – Wouldn’t it be that the ‘socialist’ mind-set is that you donate to the government so that THEY can do the things that you’d donate to voluntarily that causes the perceived shortfall between what is and what we’d expect?
This first occurred to me a few years ago when I spoke to an Israeli (a man I respect a great deal, by the way, as an idealist in the realm of architecture and city planning) about volunteerism here (in conjunction with my Bronfman project that was first described on your original blog) and he said, ‘I think you American’s have it wrong – you shouldn’t be taking the role of government – you’re allowing the government to get away with not doing it’s job. I won’t give money to beggars because the government should be taking care of them, not me. ‘”
— Continue reading: Can we measure Israelis and Americans by the same standards of giving? —
Can We Measure Israelis and Americans By the Same Standard of Giving?
Here’s my take on the article. It misses the point to measure Israelis and Americans by the same standard of giving.
Living in Israel is a huge commitment unto itself. We “give” 50% of our income to the state in the form of taxes. Our very presence and well-being secures the land. Not to mention that every able bodied man donates three years of his life to the army (and we, as mothers, fathers, and family give our children away to do so). Civilians additionally serve up to six weeks in the army each year in times of peace for as long as 25 years.
This type of service may not show up on standard American or external measurements of volunteerism, but if this isn’t giving, I don’t know what is.
(The study, sourcing from John Hopkins University, cited Israeli volunteerism– using the standard measure– at 6% and Western rates at 15%.)
You’ve heard our thoughts on the matter? What’s your take? Please check out the article– which is well written and interesting despite my critique of the missing points– and get back to me on your opinion. Can’t wait to hear from you.
Like what you’re reading? Check out posts from other guest contributers:
- “Sending Money to Israel? What’s Your Return? (Guest Author: Chaim Landau)”
- “How We Market Ourselves in Times of Crisis: Comparing Economic Downturn with Israel’s PR Image”
- Jewish Philanthropy Study Reveals Jews Give More Generously Than They Receive”
- “Bronfman Big Idea Contest: Jewish Community Incubator (Shai Litt)“
Image credit to Michael Plump via Flickr, with thanks for him using the Creative Commons license.
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