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When it comes to philanthropy, there's a wall around Israelis' hearts

Hebrew University study shows the uniquely insular character of Israeli philanthropy, despite all the money this country gets from abroad.

It’s hard to read this news feature in today’s Haaretz and continue to believe that Israel, even if it were to end the occupation, is a worthy cause. The article is about a new Hebrew University study on philanthropy in this country and others:

In 2010, $575 billion was sent around the world for philanthropic purposes, but only $11 million came from Israel. According to figures from the past decade, 48 percent of charitable funds raised in Belgium were earmarked for international relief, compared with 38 percent in the Netherlands, 13 percent in Italy, 9 percent in Britain, 5 percent in the United States – and 0.1 percent in Israel. …

Not only do we Israelis, unlike people in other prosperous countries, give basically nothing to charity abroad, but at the same time we receive an ordinately huge amount of charity from the rest of the world. (By the way, the figures make it clear that the great bulk of that charity we got came from goyishe sources.)

The amount sent overseas by Israeli nonprofit groups in 2009 reached just NIS 107,000 – 0.1 percent of their revenues. In contrast, more than NIS 9.2 billion was received in Israel from donors and foundations abroad.

The most ironic (and, for a Jew, merciful) part of this story is that Diaspora Jews are world-renown for their philanthropy – and (to the enduring exasperation of stout-hearted Zionists) the large majority of it goes to non-Jewish causes. From a 2007 study of American Jewish philanthropy written up in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. (I couldn’t find figures for the rest of the Diaspora, but I imagine the picture there is about the same):

We examined about 50 of the largest and most prominent foundations established by Jews and looked at where they made their more than 8,000 grants in 2004 and 2005, the latest years for which comprehensive information is available.

The findings confirm our previous research: About 80 percent of the dollars they gave away went to general causes — higher education, health care, arts and culture, programs for the poor and elderly, the environment and more. About 20 percent went to Jewish causes, including 7 percent for Israel-related purposes.

Oh well. I don’t think these statistics need a lot of analysis for what they say about the way Israeli Jews see themselves in the world vs the way Diaspora Jews do, or about which way is good and which way is shitty. At any rate, though, thank you for your generosity, chaverim. The people of Israel are eternally grateful.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. henry tobias

      Charity begins at home

      Reply to Comment
      • And for Israelis, uniquely, it ends at home.

        Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          And you Larry? Which charities did you contribute to last year?

          Reply to Comment
          • Danaa

            And you, Joel? which charities did you contribute to last year? please feel free to detail by type, amount and year.

            Oh, and while we are at it, what brand laundry detergent do you use? I think we really need to know that (surely, I’ll come up with a reason why, just you wait…).

            Reply to Comment
    2. rsgengland

      The total value of charity contributions is misleading.
      Israel always offers, and delivers, large amounts of aid to countries beset by natural disasters, in the form of medical aid and assistance.
      As the aid is not in currency, but services, it always gets used in its entirety on the cause for which it was sent.
      Great amounts of foreign aid, private and public, often gets dissipated by corruption and misuse, often never reaching the intended recipients.
      This is often as a result of wage inflation, petty bureaucracy and internal conflicts between aid agencies.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      Actually this is just a reflection of the fact that both Israeli ‘humanist/progressive/left’ and the Israeli ‘religious/right’ philanthropic associations are obsessed with changing Israel rather than caring about the rest of the world. On the part of the religious/right at least it can be expected since they are explicitly obsessed with Israel, Jews and Judaism and there aren’t that many Jews around the world that are suffering. On the part of the supposedly international, progressive left on the other hand it reeks of hypocrisy. In other words, all the beautiful words about international cooperation, global action, humanism, and etc are just a smokescreen for the insular obsession that Israeli progressives have for Israel and Jews.

      Reply to Comment
      • People who might be classed as secular and progressive are not huge in number in Israel. Unless they have unusually deep pockets, I doubt such groups could have a major influence on the direction of these overall figures. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of Israeli giving habits according to political and religious demographics, but from the data presented in the Ha’aretz article I don’t think it is currently possible to tell which groups are giving to which causes.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Vicky, perhaps you missed the number of 107,000 NIS, which was the total that Israeli NGOs sent abroad. So, it is entirely obvious that nearly none are giving to international causes so there isn’t any particular need for much of a breakdown of giving habits.

          People who might be classified as secular and progressive are a large enough and rich enough group that if they wanted to send more than 107,000 NIS to international causes they most certainly could. A single individual with a great job earning 30,000 NIS/month could send 107,000 NIS to international causes in a year if he/she cared. There are thousands of such secular, progressive people working and earning good salaries in the Israeli high-tech sector.

          Reply to Comment
    4. The Trespasser

      Apparently it pays well to be an American journalist.

      However, since MOST Israelis are earning as little as $1000 – $1200 per month (12000 – 15000 US Dollars per year) and Israel currently is one of most expensive countries in the world, with most expensive housing, food, fuel and what not, I would not put Israel in the most prosperous countries list.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Michael W.

      I wonder if the work done by the NGO that does heart surgeries is included in the figures.

      Some Israeli NGOs have to operate in relative secrecy as to not endanger their volunteers and efforts.

      Reply to Comment
    6. jjj

      A defunct column.
      How much charity is collected for local needs? I wouldn’t put that on low number.
      Moreover, aid appears in various forms, not necessarily $$$ charity, which we all know goes for bloated administration and other mechanisms, before it serves the actual needies.
      I would put the title’s intent on the writer of the column.
      “when it comes to Israel, there’s a wall around Larry Derfner’s heart”, and that says all about this pointless and inciting column.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Hyssop

      Please, someone, explain to me: what is a ‘Diaspora Jew’?

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        ‘Diaspora Jew’ means a Jew who lives outside Eretz Israel.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Richard Witty

      Israelis feel hated in the world, and to give to someone that hates you, is to be a dupe.

      You said it yourself that that was the worst that could be said to an Israeli.

      What is the path for change in the attitude? Its gotta to be in both respects, changing how the world views Israel and Israelis (hasbara if you will, opposing boycott of academic presentation even when it glorifies Israel without commentary on Palestine), and then changing Israeli hearts and minds to give to those that might be appreciative.

      The religious invocation to give anonymously is a long stretch. Most still want to be appreciated for their giving, selfish or not.

      Reply to Comment

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