Fleeing Ra’anana

This, from Globes, is interesting:

Israelis leaving big cities

Israelis are bucking a global trend by moving into smaller communities.

Migration figures are an important measure for any community. A city losing its population is a signal that something in the municipal cost-benefit equation is not working.

Cities and communities that are adding new families, on the other hand, are showing that they can be attractive to many Israelis, even if those new families are going there to live because they cannot afford the cost of living anywhere else.

According to figures recently published by the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Construction and Housing, Israelis are fleeing the large cities, in absolute contrast to the global urbanization trend strengthening the world’s largest cities. Israel’s five largest cities, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon Lezion, and Ashdod, where a quarter of Israel’s population (two million people) lives, had negative migration in 2010-2013. Other than Haifa, each of these cities also had negative net migration in 2009.

Of Israel’s 40 largest cities (with 40,000 or more residents), only 17 had positive net migration in 2013. In 16 cities, containing 40% of Israel’s population, net migration was negative in each of the years from 2009 through 2013.

It seems that despite the distinctly urban lifestyle of most Israelis, and even though the big cities offer a broad range of housing solutions, educational institutions, culture, employment centers, etc., something there is just not working. The high price of housing in those cities, the absence of adequate construction solutions, and perhaps economic and social temptations in other cities are drawing people away.

Now, here’s where it comes closer to home:

Fleeing Ra’anana

For some reason, size has become a disadvantage in the Israeli way of life. Other than Petah Tikva, all the cities with 100,000 or more residents are losing people. Even Tel Aviv, which has so many attractions to offer, saw 22,500 people leave in 2013, while only 20,500 moved to the city (legal residents, of course; thousands of immigrants come to the city who are not legally registered in it). 18,000 Israelis left Jerusalem in 2013, while only 10,500 moved there.

Ra’anana has the largest negative migration in Israel, losing almost 2% of its population yearly: 15-18 out of every thousand residents. The fact that the city is currently almost aggressively promoting construction in the framework of National Outline Plan 38, and is building large neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city (Neve Zemer, to contain 3,500 apartments) indicates an attempt to reverse the trend, and perhaps to combat the high prices in the city (according to Ministry of Construction and Housing figures, a new four-room apartment in Ra’anana costs an average of NIS 2.14 million) that drive away many of its residents and making it difficult for other Israelis to settle there.

In stark contrast, Kfar Saba, which is right next to Ra’anana, is the leader in positive migration. Massive construction in the city and the relatively cheap alternative it provides to the other Sharon area cities (a new four-room apartment there costs an average of NIS 1.83 million) are making Kfar Saba the preferred option for many families. Just behind it, Hod Hasharon (NIS 1.82 million on the average for a new four-room apartment) has also been waiting patiently far from the limelight (certainly in comparison with its prestigious neighbor, Ramat Hasharon), and has also consistently shown positive net migration in recent years.

While Kfar Saba is the popular alternative in the Sharon area, in the northern outlying areas this role is played by Afula.

Points to ponder:

  • There’s anecdotal evidence of more French immigrants settling in Ra’anana. Will that reverse the trend when the next set of statistics come out, or are they just taking up some of the slack?
  • It’s difficult to know what drives the huge difference in property prices between Ra’anana and Kfar Saba. They are, literally, across the road from one another. There are a much higher percentage of Anglo immigrants in Ra’anana. Is that the driver?  Why?
  • The mayor of Ra’anana has recently introduced a new tax needed to fund infrastructure repairs. The drop in population may have contributed to the need for this new source of money.
  • It’s also difficult to see how the huge construction ongoing in Ra’anana is going to reduce prices. The recently completed development next to ours is more than half empty, but there is no sign of a drop in prices. Either the builders are well capitalized, or the bank have taken over, and will just wait, and wait.
  • I can see why Petah Tikva is attractive; the housing is more modern, and there’s a real communal buzz about the place. However, like most Israeli cities, the road infrastructure struggles to cope with the volume of traffic.

The longest wait is forever

The Queen is on an official trip to Germany – a visit that will include a stop at a concentration camp. The headline set me thinking about why the Queen has never made a visit to Israel. Such members of the Royal Family that have visited, have always done so with officialdom stressing – and stressing, and stressing, and stressing – that the visit was a personal one. So, the question is not only, why hasn’t the Queen visited Israel? Why hasn’t any member of the Royal Family made an official visit to Israel?

During her reign, the Queen has made official visits to many countries in the Middle East, including:

  • Bahrain
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates

Despots, dictators, racists, and terrorist supporters. Apparently it’s OK to visit those countries. But Israel…

So what’s the problem with Israel?

  • Is the Royal Family antisemitic?
  • Is the Royal Family anti-Israel?
  • Is the Royal Family prevented by the Arabists at the Foreign Office from going on an official visit to Israel?

Whatever the reason, it’s an excuse, and a rude state of affairs that contributes to the demonization and delegitimization of Israel.

Who will call them out on this? Or are we waiting in vain?

Theater of the absurd

The UN, and all its offshoots, strikes me as a theater of the absurd. The totalitarian regimes criticize the democracies. The torturers and abusers of human rights assail those who value life, liberty, and freedom. And the terrorists (and their sponsors, useless idiots, and ideological bedfellows) accuse those fighting terrorism of being war criminals. While that theater does, occasionally, put on a good and proper show (ie, does something right that actually contributes something) that does not excuse the unintentional farces that form the bulk of its promoted output.

As an aside, while transferring flights in Heathrow Terminal Five, I saw a lot of adverts for the work of the UN. Really? The UN needs to spend money on advertising? How the hell does that contribute meaningfully to its aims. It seems like a total waste. (Not unlike the UN itself.)

It will therefore come as no surprise, that I join with those who sharply criticize and denounce the latest output from that body, the UNHCR report on the last Gaza conflict. There is so much to be said, and not enough time, but even if only for my own sake, I wanted to highlight the following commentaries:

We may not want to buy a program for the Theater of the Absurd. But we can still critique the performances.

President Rivlin and President Obama

First, some background.

To most objective observers, Arutz Sheva is on the right of the political spectrum in Israel. The far right to some. It is not mainstream, and so far as I can tell from anecdotal evidence, has a somewhat restricted audience.

It occasionally publishes worthwhile material, but such as with the venomous Guardian, you need to wade through a lot of dross.

And in that regard, it is important to note that so often as is practically possible, I try not to ‘shoot the messenger.’ In other words, I want to look at the story, check the facts, and think about it for myself, before I reject something just because it has been written by a particular person, or published in a particular place.

Now down to business.

President Rivlin has some tough shoes to fill. Peres seemed to be able to step between the cracks most nimbly. Rivlin has made a decent start, but with one or two cracks very definitely stood on. For example, his encounter with the Conservative religious movement was not handled well. On the other hand, I thought he was statesmanlike with the issue of discrimination against the Ethiopians.

Rivlin won’t cowtow to Bibi, and on several occasions has said things that put hime in direct conflict with the Prime Minister. So Bibi’s supporters are not always Rivlin supporters.

Arutz Sheva has an article about Rivlin’s marking of Jordanian Independence Day:


If you read the article, you will get the flavor of Arutz Sheva’s dislike of Rivlin or the Jordanians or both. Some of the points made are valid. But it is not fair to criticize Rivlin for being a diplomat and avoiding controversy. There was no need for Rivlin to create a storm by rubbing the Jordanians’ noses in it. However, I do hope that in private sessions, Rivlin will make clear how Israel views some of the nonsense Jordan has been getting up to.

But if you view the Arutz Sheva home page, you will see how somebody has decided to add a telling caption to the synopsis:


You may take it that “Our own Obama?” is not an indication of respect for either Obama or Rivlin. It is telling that people with this political viewpoint are trying to suggest Rivlin may be as bad as Obama. (And if the leaks from Michael Oren’s new book are half true, Obama has been bad, bad, bad towards Israel.) This little mark is a useful reminder of the issues that loom large in Israeli politics. Here there are also undercurrents of racism or Islamaphobia: Rivlin is like Obama because he is sympathetic, or not at war with Islam the religion. And in these quarters, that’s not a plus.

There’s nothing significant in the events reported on, but it is probably material that Rivlin can expect this type of comparison (and insult!) from the right. He won’t care, for now. But he will know these are the risks of being in his role. One veteran Israeli told me that Rivlin will do whatever he thinks is right (correct!) regardless of the criticism, and will make efforts to take the Israeli public with him. Clearly that includes the Arab citizens. So his remarks about Islam are not just window dressing.

Definitely a case of ‘watch this space’ for further developments.

The shoe is on the other foot for the BBC

In case you missed it, the Twittersphere has been all ablaze with the conspiracy theories of one  Ashgar Bukhari – “prominent Muslim activist” – who has accused “Zionists” of a conspiracy to wage psychological warfare against him, including stealing one of his shoes. Feel free to see the extent of this conspiracy by going to Twitter and searching for the hahshtag #MossadStoleMyShoe.

But in the midst of this bizarre development, Hillel Neuer posts an excellent question.


Do you think the BBC will answer?

[First seen at BBC Watch.]


Amnesty does it again

Amnesty does what again? It engages in context free Israel bashing

From Elder of Ziyon:

Amnesty USA put out a petition, tweeted by Amnesty International, demanding that the US punish Israel for arresting Palestinian minors:

Here’s the tweet referred to:


7,000 kids arrested over twelve years! Sounds terrible!

I wondered how the US stacks up against Israel in arresting minors. After all, if Amnesty USA is telling Congress to protect Palestinian children from arrests, then certainly Israel must have a much worse record than the US in arresting juveniles.

Now, the West Bank has about 4.5 million people, so to be fair I only looked at states that have a similar population to see how many kids are arrested over the same 12 year period.

We have the statistics for most of the analysis..

Can you guess what’s coming?

Kentucky, Oregon and Oklahoma have roughly the same or fewer people than the West Bank.

Let’s start with Kentucky:

In Kentucky, between 2010 and 2012 there were over 7000 kids arrested every year.

So Kentucky arrested the same number of kids in one year, that Israel arrested in the West Bank over twelve years!

Now Oklahoma:

In Oklahoma, 200,000 were arrested since 2003..

Assuming that’s the count for 12 years, that is an average of around 17,000.

So Oklahoma arrested more than double the same number of kids in one year, that Israel arrested in the West Bank over twelve years!

Come on Oregon:

In Oregon, some 270,000 were arrested since 2003.

Assuming again that’s the count for 12 years, that is an average of over 22,000.

So Oregon arrested more than triple the same number of kids in one year, that Israel arrested in the West Bank over twelve years!

The Elder continues:

Even Wyoming, with less than 600,000 people, arrests more kids in a single year than Israel does in twelve.

Why doesn’t Amnesty-USA make any online petitions against the nation it resides in – a nation that arrests minors at 30 times the rate that Israel arrests Arab kids!

I think I know the answer to this question; it’s because each national branch of Amnesty only operates outside its own country. So, Amnesty USA does not care about human rights in the USA.

But, there’s an opening here for Amnesty in the rest of the world to poke the USA branch in the eye. What price an Amnesty Israel campaign against child arrests in the USA?

This is beyond a double standard. It shows no standards at all.

The Elder is right. What’s worse, as he also posted later, the blonde, photogenic poster kid on the tweet wasn’t arrested. She’s there for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with truth or justice.

Sense the seething hate

The Guardian‘s report about the the conclusion of the Israeli military investigation into “one of the most controversial incidents in last summer’s Gaza war: a missile attack that killed four children on Gaza beach and injured a number of others” is fronted with this headline:


Do you think an investigation by any other country’s military authorities would be described in such terms? What a disgusting headline. What brazen double standards. The undertones are rising to the surface, and they bring with them a stench of an age old hate.

A different type of FFS

Earlier this week I posted about the new album from FFS. This post is about a different FFS. It’s the FFS I found myself saying on reading this at the Times of Israel:

A former intelligence chief for the Obama administration on Wednesday tore apart an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, describing it as a “placeholder” suffering from “severe deficiencies” based on “wishful thinking” and warning that Iranian leaders would never give up their nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn systematically criticized three key elements of a deal aimed at curbing the weapons aspects of Iran’s nuclear program: inspections of sites, the removal of sanctions, and how long the agreement would delay an eventual Iranian bomb.

Only one man’s opinion, but a rather well informed and knowledgeable one.

The article includes this quote from Flynn:

“We, the United States of America, must comprehend that evil doesn’t recognize diplomacy and nations such as Iran will still maintain the intent of achieving nuclear weapon status.”

My reaction is that it is not the USA that needs to comprehend this; it’s Obama. The buck stops with him.

Oh, FFS!

Read it all, here.

Part of the union

From Globes:

Deloitte is latest Israeli accountancy firm to unionize

Ernst & Young Israel, PwC Israel and KPMG Somekh Haikin have all unionized.

Following Ernst & Young Israel, KPMG Somekh Haikin, and Kesselman & Kesselman PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Israel, employees of Deloitte Israel are joining their colleagues by beginning the process of establishing a workers’ committee.

Why is this happening?

If you read the piece, you will see this quote:

Deloitte Israel employees also make it clear that they have no intention of attacking the firm’s management. “The purpose of this e-mail is not to oppose the management of the firm in any way; it is not a call to arms or for any kind of war against the firm or its management,” the e-mail states, adding, “As employees of the leading accounting firm in Israel and the world, each one of us will certainly do his best to make the union a good-natured and proper one that will do all of the parties honor.”

It may not be a war against the firm or its management, but unionization is also not a friendly, co-operative action. It absolutely is an action against the management, and probably for good reason.

Staff are poorly paid – even well qualified and experienced staff.

Working conditions are poor. For example, I was told that accountancy firms take up half the office space of equivalent sized (in employee numbers) businesses, because they truly are cube farms. With small cubes.

And apart from the pay and physical working conditions, the working environment is also not that great. For example, apparently partner exploitation of their subordinates’ work, and taking the credit for same, is rife. That’s not entirely unknown in professional services circles, but the impression I get is that the situation here is out of control, and has been for a time.

Rampaging partners. Demoralized staff. If management were doing its job, there probably would be no need for unionization.

Another contributing factor is the general standard of professional services. It’s poor. It looks to be about twenty years – at least – behind the UK and USA. Overseas businesses and people who use the bigger firms of professional advisers get markedly poorer service from the local firms. And that continues, because there’s not enough competition – although there are enough firms. There’s a strange dynamic in the marketplace here, meaning that firms do not seem to rush to improve their services versus their competitors. “If they are not doing it, why should I?” seems to be the standard.

And linked in to that is another factor: because good quality staff are not properly valued, the firms do not feel the need to make any (or much) effort to retain good staff. If the employee wants to leave, let him leave. Let’s ignore the costs and inconvenience of retraining. Let’s ignore the impact on the services we provide. After all, where can they go elsewhere that will be any better?

And so, unionization arises.

I hope it will work out for the workers. Then there might be more substance to a statement by the management of these firms about how much they appreciate their business depends on their staff, and how they value their staff. Until then, it’s just talk.

Why doesn’t Obama get it?

I don’t hate Obama; I don’t even dislike the man. I just don’t understand him. How can a highly intelligent individual get the situation in Israel so gloriously wrong? Time and time again, his assessment and vision seem off, and not by a little.

Obama’s Tuesday night interview with Israeli television made it clear that Obama still doesn’t get it. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what David Horovitz – no Bibi fanatic or extremist, by any stretch of the imagination – said in his Times of Israel editorial:

Discussing Israeli reservations about the Iran nuclear deal you are so energetically pushing, Mr. President, you asserted in your striking, heartfelt Israel Channel 2 interview broadcast Tuesday that “I can say to the Israeli people: I understand your concerns and I understand your fears.”

But here’s the thing, Mr. President: You don’t. And your interview made that so unfortunately plain. You don’t fully understand our concerns and our fears — not as regards the ideologically and territorially rapacious regime in Tehran, driven by a perverted sense of religious imperative, and not as regards the Palestinian conflict.

After establishing his credentials, Mr H goes on to make several key points.

For example: Continue reading