Sticker shock

As you might have read in the news, Israel is expensive. Maybe not London or Toyko expensive, but still pretty eye popping. Prices are high, salaries are low, and communities across the country have been protesting all summer. According to Ha’Aretz, the average Israeli spends 50% of his/her income on housing. This summer, a fed-up woman in Tel Aviv pitched a tent on Rothschild Boulevard to protest her high rents, and “tent cities” soon sprang up all over the country. (That’s the one in Jerusalem, pictured above). This past Saturday, over 400,000 people marched in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other cities to protest the cost of living. Whether or not this movement represents the “resurgence of the Israeli left”, and whether it has any major influence on domestic, foreign or security policies, remains to be seen. But I am finding it very interesting (perhaps because it’s a conflict more easily grasped and more relevant to my daily life than Israel/Palestine? I hate to admit this but it may be true). Every day the news is full of some deal brokered between a protesting group (e.g. Tel Aviv University Student Union) and a supplier. Last time I went shopping, prices for milk, eggs, diapers etc. had dropped the promised 20%.

Which calmed me down about 20%. As we knew would happen, we’re experiencing some sticker shock of our own. “Just think in pounds,” I remember my mother recommending to people visiting us in London. It was good advice; the mental math and subsequent anguish of converting dollars to foreign currency is no fun, and more importantly can’t change the situation. But I am definitely not thinking in Shekels yet. I’m pretty anxious about sticking to our budget and saving so we can take the trips and have the experiences we want. We are eating a lot of pita and beans (and cucumbers, hummus, tomatoes, watermelon and oranges!).

Some of this is due to Delaware vs. Israel, but it’s also boarding school vs. reality. In our boarding school lives, we never see gas, electric or water bills, much less rent. We scarcely have to go food shopping during term time, when the dining hall is open. Of course, we (more specifically, Terence) work hard for these benefits, but the truth is that we are incredibly spoiled on a “cost of living” (and quality of life) front. The tent protesters would laugh hard at us. I hope we demonstrate our gratitude regularly, but know we really know how lucky we are.



About hilarymead

Taking two young kids, a great husband, and a whole lot of questions to Jerusalem for a year's sabbatical.
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2 Responses to Sticker shock

  1. Suzanne says:

    Beans and pita are good :-). From 1984-88, I lived on a salary of $5500 a year there in J’lem. Now that was just me, with no diapers and no kids and no husband. And no rent. But the budget was tight, and I learned how wasteful I had been before. I found myself planning meals ahead of time and using a friend’s freezer. I learned slowly where the cheapest fresh veggies were in the shuk, and when it mattered. I ate a lot of soup and learned how little protein we really need. I’m so glad you have that 20% reduction, and I know you’ll still manage to save. And you’ll learn to think in shekels. When I was there, inflation was so rampant that prices were all quoted in dollars because it was a stable currency. Yikes. Sometimes my funds were devalued by the end of the month because I couldn’t afford a checking account and had to CASH each check when it came. Unless I changed the shekels into $$ on Saladin ST., I came out behind…but doing this was illegal…aarrgh. Finally things settled financially, but not before I had learned many jokes about inflation.

  2. Margaret says:

    What great perspective you are gaining! On a smaller scale (and far less important for international relations, I am sure) we faced our own mini version of sticker shock moving from Kansas to Georgia. And, interestingly, I remember thinking how reassuring it must have been for my parents, when their budget got tight, that all five of us could eat three meals a day in the school dining hall if necessary. I think about this frequently these days–both from a budget perspective and from an end-of-the-day-losing-my-sanity perspective. What I wouldn’t give to be able to cart my whole family off to dinner in the dining hall some nights. Hmm. Is this the incentive I need to get back to work at a boarding school?!

    And for whatever it is worth, I am certain you are demonstrating your gratitude regularly.


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