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A change of focus

To my dear readers,

It was announced today that I will be joining The Wall Street Journal as Technology Editor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

For years, you have followed my writing here about Israel, its internal and external politics, and issues relating to its security and identity. I’ve found my voice covering these issues, and found a loyal and engaging readership in you.

Now I am changing course, and will start focusing on the technology sector in Israel, the wider Middle East, Europe, and Africa. I hope to bring the same seriousness and style to my new beat that you have come to expect from me.

To focus on my new challenge, I will let this blog rest for the foreseeable future, and do my blogging, with a focus on technology and how it affects our world, on the website of The Wall Street Journal’s tech section.

Thank you for supporting my blog throughout the years, and I hope you will follow me into my new venture.

Amir Mizroch


Poll shows that Israelis love to complain, a lot

A recent survey by the Geocartography Institute has found that given a choice, 48 percent of Israelis would prefer to live somewhere else. According to the report, released Monday, the sentiment was especially strong among participants ages 18-34. Some 52% of those polled said that given a choice they would remain in Israel.

The poll’s findings come on the backdrop of a public debate over Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s berating of young Israelis seeking a better life in Berlin, and findings by the Taub Center of an increasing brain drain from Israel.

Those who said they would like to live somewhere else ranked the U.S. as their top alternative, followed by Canada, Switzerland and Australia. Nine percent of those asked where they would the like to live said, “Anywhere but Israel.”

The poll, conducted by Professor Avi Dgani, was first held in 2007 and yielded very similar results: At the time 53% of those polled said that given a choice they would like to live in Israel and 47% opted for other countries.

The survey, which included 500 participants ages 18 and over, was based on Geocartography’s Mosaic Israel international population classification model, which reviews demographic, socioeconomic and lifestyle factors.

Twenty-seven percent of the survey’s participants noted that the faltering sense of security, peace and quiet were the main reasons why they wanted to live in another country; 19% expressed their yearning for a different cultural mentality and 18% expressed a desire to have a better quality of life. The poll found that the religious-Zionist community expressed the highest level of loyalty to and affiliation with the state (85%), followed by the ultra-Orthodox sector with 81%. Only 42% of secular Israelis exhibited the same.

Among the new immigrants polled, only 36% expressed affiliation with the state, compared to 57% of second-generation Israelis.

The survey further found that only 45% of participants ages 18-34 would like to remain in Israel, compared to 58% among participants 55 years old and older.

All good and well. But a recent  survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that the number of Israelis who actually left the country in 2011 had not returned by the end of 2012 stands at 16,000 – one the lowest figures over the past three decades and among the lowest rates in the developed world.

According to Haaretz: In recent years, Israel’s rate of emigration has been two people per 1,000 residents, which is considered a particularly low rate compared to the world’s other developed economies, members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD. As recently as 2006, the emigration rate from Israel was 3.2 per 1,000.

So why do we stay?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me comments on this post, or talk to me on Facebook.


First we take Manhattan, then we take Lapid

Minister of Finance Yair Lapid has attacked emigrants who left Israel for Berlin because of Israel’s high cost of living. Lapid was responding to a Channel 10 report about young Israelis who left Israel for Berlin or the US to obtain cheaper housing and food and to lower their cost of living. This is what he had to say:

A word for all of those who are ‘fed up’ and are ‘leaving for Europe’,” wrote Lapid on his Facebook page. “As it happens, I am in Budapest. I came here to speak before parliament about anti-Semitism and to remind them how they tried to murder my father here just because Jews did not have a country of their own, how they killed my grandfather in a concentration camp, how they starved my uncles, how my grandmother was saved at the last moment from a death march. So forgive me if I am a bit intolerant of people who are prepared to throw into the garbage the only country that the Jews have because Berlin is more comfortable.”

I was just in Berlin for a conference. I asked people who live there how much their apartments cost. You know that in Israel it takes about 125 monthly salaries to buy an average 3 room apartment [that’s without paying for anything else]? It’s about a third of that in Berlin. But many don’t buy there because rental prices are very reasonable. But you see Mr. Lapid, we in Israel are in a bit of trap. Rental apartments are in short supply here, so many young couples must either buy their own unit or live with their parents. Prices have risen dramatically over the past 20 years and many young couples simply cannot afford to buy. But as housing prices are rising by at least 15% every year [while salaries stay the same or even go down], these young people figure that if they don’t buy now, later might be too late. So many of them take out obscene mortgages [which the banks are only too happy to provide] and pay their entire earnings to service the mortgage [so they don’t save anything, and can’t put aside anything for their children either]. Also 134 months to build a four-room apartment is a world record, Mr. Lapid.

In the United States, it takes 2.9 years of salary to buy the average apartment. In Israel, it takes 7.7. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, Israeli consumers spent 15.9 percent of their expenditures on food in 2012, more than many other OECD countries.

You talked about your parents? Well let me tell you about my parents, and the parents of many other young people I know here in Israel. Our parents come out of retirement so that they can help us; they take out mortgages on houses they already own; they buy groceries for us, they babysit our children because we have to work 2 jobs, and because daycare, like everything else in this country, is exorbitantly expensive.

Our parents pay for the grandchildren’s nursery schools, clothes, and after-school activities. Without the help of our parents, we won’t be able to make it. A new study by the Taub Center for Social Policy finds that 87 percent of all Israeli parents help their adult children with finances.

Oh, and my parents all lost family in the Holocaust too Mr. Lapid. The Holocaust Mr. Lapid, doesn’t belong just to you and your family. And the country’s economy Mr. Lapid, doesn’t belong just to you and your family. So instead of berating us for trying to survive, for trying to make a better life for ourselves and our children, and even leaving for a few years so that we can breathe a little, maybe you should just do your job and lower prices, increase competition, break monopolies, get tycoons to return their loans [which they took from our pension funds], clean up financial corruption, and increase workforce participation.

When you’ve done all that, Mr. Lapid, then we’ll start taking you seriously. Oh and by the way, sources who were at your anti-Semitism speech in Budapest tell me that you really insulted the locals there by your Facebook page tirade against Israelis leaving for Europe. Good job.


Looking for gas masks in all the wrong places

My wife and I have our own gas masks, but she insisted I get a gas mask kit for our little baby boy.I have it on pretty good authority that Bashar Assad knows that if he gasses us he won’t even live to regret it, but  I also know not to argue with my wife on these things, so I went onto the website of the IDF’s Homefront Command to see where I could get the goods. Continue reading Looking for gas masks in all the wrong places

This week’s radio show: Peace talks, Burning Man, and Gays taking on Putin

“This week peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians kicked off in Washington DC. The price Israel had to pay to get into the talks was a release of 104 prisoners who have been in jail since before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. This is a steep price, for the families of the victims and for many Israelis in general. Between the heartbreak, there is hope. Hope that this time, after countless attempts at peace talks, this time will be different. That this time will lead to a deal that ends the conflict. It seems almost like a dream — an end to the conflict. Is that even really possible? Are our negotiators in Washington like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills? Or perhaps they’re like Sisyphus, rolling a large boulder up a mountain — a boulder that will always fall back down. Perhaps the Gods have decreed that there will never be real peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Or maybe this time, the Israelis and Palestinians will be able to push that boulder to the top of the mountain, and roll it off the other side of the cliff —  ridding us all of this endless, bloody conflict. Can we dream of that? Between the heartbreak and the pessimism, is there room for hope? Between the skepticism and yearning, is there a realistic chance that this time there will be a different outcome? And between the disappointments and frustrations, has anyone truly imagined what life here could be like if we did live in a country at peace with its neighbors? While we’re not currently living in war, and we’re not living in peace either, maybe it’s not so bad that we live in hope.”

US Jewish journalists more religious, more pro-Israel than their readers

First published here: Israel Hayom | US Jewish journalists more religious, pro-Israel than readers.

U.S. Jewish journalists who work for specifically Jewish media outlets are less likely to view themselves as government and business watchdogs, and are less willing to be critical of their community, than mainstream American journalists (both Jewish and non-Jewish) are, a new survey has found. The survey, released on Wednesday, also found that American Jewish journalists are by and large more religiously observant and more pro-Israel than are their readers in the larger U.S. Jewish community. Continue reading US Jewish journalists more religious, more pro-Israel than their readers