I was recently contacted by a connection on LinkedIn. He is a director at an association of parents of children with disabilities in Uganda. His questions for me were the following:
“What is new in Israel that we can learn from as NGOs? Why is Israel quiet in global issues, especially giving? Is it a poor country?”
These are excellent questions, and I am thrilled that he contacted me about this. First of all, I must say that I disagree with the statement that Israel is “quiet in global issues”. Anyone who follows the news knows that Israel, a tiny country the size of New Jersey, is one of the countries most reported on and followed internationally. However, my colleague is correct that Israel is not a major player in the philanthropy world. Why is this?
I would not say that Israel is a poor country; however, there are several factors that contribute to the fact that there is less philanthropy than in other first world countries.
The salaries in Israel are much lower than in other first world countries. The average monthly salary is 8,000 NIS a month, which is about $2,000. That means that the average annual salary in the country is 96,000 NIS, aka approximately $24,000. Also, remember that this is the average annual salary. This means that some people are doing very well, and others not so much. Minimum wage in Israel is 4,300 NIS per month (approximately $1,080), slightly over half of the average salary. That comes out to about $13,000 per year. Compare that to an average median wage of $26,700 in the US. So those making minimum wage in Israel are making over 50% less than the average income in the US. Remember that Israel is a nation of immigrants. Many Jews come to Israel from all over the world. Many of them do not speak the language, and mastering it takes several years. In the meantime, they get by with jobs like cleaning and babysitting; not the highest income.
Culture of Receiving Rather Than Giving Donations
Another interesting point is that the state of Israel is only 66 years old. Israel is used to getting financial support from Jews and Christian supporters worldwide (North and South America, Europe, Australia, etc.). Because of this, there is less of a culture of giving than receiving donations. Those of us in the nonprofit world are trying to change these ideas. More and more Israelis are earning high salaries due to high tech, start-ups, etc. Also, halacha (Jewish religious law) requires that Jews donate 10% of their earnings to charity. Therefore Jews who follow halacha should be donating 10% of their income.
That is my take as to why Israel is not a major player in the philanthropy world. What do you think?