Why Israelis Don’t Give– Or Do They?

Shekels Credited to "MichaelPlump" on Flickr

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.

Joe writes:

“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.”

He adds:

“… ‘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.'”

Shai remarks:

“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%.)

Your Thoughts?

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.

Recommended Reading

Like what you’re reading? Check out posts from other guest contributers:

Image credit to Michael Plump via Flickr, with thanks for him using the Creative Commons license.

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4 Responses to Why Israelis Don’t Give– Or Do They?

  1. Yechiel says:

    Israeli don’t give? News to me. Who were the only ones to go out and help the Darfurian refugees, at therese of their lives? Who were first,or at least tied for first, to Haiti after the disaster this year? Whom is it we see working for justice in all the world, and being kicked in the teeth for it?
    And, here is the kicker; Which Army is the best and most trained to minimize civilian casualties, even at the risk of their lives! Get off it. We have enough lazy dog atchers to complain about, without these loshen ha ra’ against one of the most,if not the most generious people on earth. Get a LIFE, and if confused, ask an Israeli. he or she shall be happy to set you stright.
    With best reguards;
    Yechiel

    • Maya Norton says:

      Hi Yechiel,

      You raise some really important points in the first half of your post. As you can see from what I write, I also thought there were holes in the article’s explanation. Do keep in mind here that the study “Ha’aretz” is referring to is not talking about in-kind giving (that is: aid) but monetary donations to charity. Both are incredibly important in their own ways but have different measurements and serve varying purposes.

      As for the second half of your comment, I ask that if you comment here you are respectful- otherwise your next comment will be deleted (as I don’t edit the content of comments).

      And I am Israeli, which you’ll see if you read the “About” section.

      Hag sameach,

      ~ Maya

  2. Dear Maya;
    My comment was not completely a knee-jerk reaction to the negative, and in some cases, lying coverage Israel has endured. I am trying to raise the bar on non-Israeli recognizing how far from the truth much of the “reporting” is.
    As for material and monetary contributions? Very important for the giver, as well as for the receiver.
    As i said, I am trying to raise the bar on the recognition of what is the truth. I have been posting on AOL Answers for a while, and I respond on other blogs. We, decent Gentiles, as well as Jews loyal to Ha Shem, need to speak out and tell the truth. I found that a strong, assertive stand prevents much evil.
    Shalom;
    Yechiel

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