UPDATE 10 am Israel time Wednesday:
4 mortars (8:15 pm) and 2 Qassam missiles (3:20 am Eshkol region) fired by terrorists in Gaza have hit southern Israel overnight. The IDF is ridiculously continuing to do everything within its power to do nothing.
It’s always interesting to look at numbers, and this last month has brought some information on interesting trends taking place here in Israel.
1. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has informed us that there is a general movement of Israelis out of the cities and into rural areas. Compared to the 1.8% growth rate of the Israeli population in 2011, the growth rate in rural communities was 4.7%. Greater still was the growth rate in Israeli kibbutzes (kibbutzim)–5.9%!
This growth in population on the kibbutzim is a reversal of what has been a decades-long decline. The reasons for the growth are twofold: a desire of young couples to raise their children in a “country atmosphere”, and an easing of kibbutzim life. In this latter regard, there has been a fundamental change in many of Israel’s 270 kibbutzim from a “communal” model of life to a more “privatized” suburban existence in which people live on the kibbutz but commute to work in the cities.
Regardless of the reason, your humble servant is happy to see a return to the kibbutz, an iconic symbol of Israeli culture.
2. To look at the extraordinary number of well-maintained, highly punctual, buses on Israeli roads all the time, one would think that Israelis are in love with public transport. In fact, the opposite is true with fewer than 30% of Israelis using public transport–one of the lowest percentages of riders in developed countries in the world.
It is often said that “Americans have a love affair with the car” to which it could be added that “Israelis are married to their cars.” It is virtually impossible to be on any Israeli street, road, or highway in the area from Haifa to Ashkelon at any time of day or night that is not packed with cars. Just driving from here in Ashdod to Tel Aviv is often a nightmarish adventure of traffic jams and near accidents– despite the incredibly well-developed road infrastructure in the country.
Nevertheless, with soaring gasoline prices, 2012 has seen a dramatic rise in the number of people taking the trains. Israel Railways has reported that 20 million passengers rode the rails between January and June. July alone saw a 17% increase in passengers over July of 2011.
Having taken the Ashdod-Tel Aviv train numerous times this summer and Fall, I can tell you that riding the train is infinitely preferable to struggling on the roads. Hopefully the proposed Ashdod-Eilat railway will be completed in the not too far distant future.
3. Finally, we come to the extremely negative trend of draft evasion.
The IDF has just reported that 13.4%* of all Israeli males who were eligible for the draft last year and this year received a “full-time yeshiva student exemption” from compulsory military service–a percentage that continues incrementally increasing as the number of “non-Zionist ultra-orthodox” men reaching draft age continues to grow.
But lest you think that this is just a “religious” problem, an additional 11.6%* of all Israeli males eligible for the draft last year and this year received exemptions for “other reasons” including mental and physical health issues.
To put it a different way, one fourth of all draft-age Israelis are now avoiding (evading) military service—and this percentage does not include the Israeli-Arab sector in which the evasion rate is over 80% (and would be higher without the Druze and Bedouin who serve in the IDF).
In fact, it has been projected that the 25% evasion rate may rise to 40% in another decade–which added to the Israeli-Arab population means that 70% of young people will not enlist in the military for national service.
That is an ominous trend for Israel that must be reversed if there is to be any sense of shared civic responsibility in this country.
(*This percentage is an amalgamation of 2011 and 2012 numbers. Source: Amos Harel, Haaretz)
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