Why Israelis Don’t Give– Or Do They?

June 18, 2010

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? —

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Israeli Philanthropy: Gaydamak Donates $23 Million to Secure Sderot Homes

December 26, 2007
Photo by Pajamas Media

If Arcadi Gaydamak’s strategy is to become the hero of Israeli philanthropy, he sure has my support. I fear that I am in danger of becoming the Gaydamak channel (should I rename my blog Gaydamania now?)

Gaydamak’s recent pledge of 90 million shekels ($23 million) to secure 600 Sderot homes is a great choice for someone with a lot of money wanting to make a difference and completely in keeping with Gaydamak’s philanthropic patterns.

The IDF Southern command reports that 1,200 Sderot homes are not yet secured, meaning that if the Red Alert were to sound that qassams were being fired, there would be no safe place within the home for people to run to.

When the plan of reinforcing homes and social structures was discussed over 20 years ago, it was considered too expensive, and an alternative investment was made in rocket systems to prevent the attacks.

Given Sderot’s low income status, which has fallen precipitously in recent months as the rockets continue to fall, it has been impossible for people to fortify their own homes. With the government turning a blind eye, Gaydamak’s executive decision to help Sderot residents plays a crucial role in maintaining the sanity and safety of this battered town.

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