By Janice Fricker
Shatil is pleased to welcome Janice Fricker, a volunteer who made Aliyah from Canada after a 30-year career in education. Janice is keenly interested in social justice, women’s issues, democracy in action, shared society, and the environment. From time to time, Janice will be offering her first- person experiences with various issues and programs here at Shatil. She says, “There is so much to learn about the positive role Shatil and the NIF play in helping Israel become a more just society. I look forward to sharing my enthusiasm for their efforts. I want more people worldwide to know why Shatil is such an impressive agent of change and hope”.
Ani b’shock — When I made Aliyah, I heard this expression and found it an amusing blend of Hebrew and English. “I am in shock” – something we say when our assumptions and beliefs are challenged by realities.
As a new volunteer with Shatil-NIF, I can honestly say, “Ani b’ shock” about the harsh realities of public housing in Israel, and I am very impressed with what Shatil is doing about it.
Somehow, I could never have imagined that, in the Jewish State, the average citizen could be spending up to 70% of her gross income to put a roof over her children’s heads. I could never could quite have believed that 20-30% of the residents of Israel are currently living below the poverty line.
“Ani b’ shock” that there are 2,500 on the waiting list for public housing, that 30,000 more need public housing but have not yet made it to the waiting list stage, and that 77% of residents and candidates for public housing are single-mothers. However, at the same time, I’m inspired by the Public Housing Forum that Shatil coordinates. It is the leading advocate for increasing public housing stock and making it more accessible to those in need.
In truth, the criteria for assistance with housing are preposterous. A candidate must currently have: three or more children, no income, no child support, and no evidence of a live-in significant other. How in the world is any family to get ahead if safe housing is not assured? How are women and children to move out of poverty if the transition from public housing to jobs and independent housing is a chasm of risk?
But, as I have been learning, Shatil works hard to create hope and guides activists to change the policies that are perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty. Just last week, the Knesset Finance Committee approved a NIS billion allocation for new public housing construction.
When I speak with Israelis about Shatil’s work in public housing advocacy, they say things like: “I just heard about that on the radio”, or “Yes, I just saw a piece about that on the television”.
Here at Shatil, I’m learning just how important partners like the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York, are in supporting projects like Shatil’s “Advancing Women’s Rights in Public Housing,”. By training women to speak up for themselves, their children, and their community, Shatil is helping them bring a new awareness to Israeli society. Empowering women to make a more just society is something that can make every Shatil partner proud.