Sapir: ‘the Millionaire is Not the Typical Israel’

“Not all Israel is Hilton and Sheraton. The millionaire is not the typical Israeli,” Israel’s Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir declared here today at a State of Israel Bonds luncheon given by the National Rabbinic Cabinet of the Israel Bond Organization at the Plaza Hotel.

Sapir devoted his remarks to the urgent financial needs of Israel, stressing the rising cost of absorbing new immigrants from the Soviet Union and elsewhere, the urgency of closing the nation’s social gap between affluence and poverty, and the spiraling cost of defense which he estimated would cost $10 billion in the next five years.

Urging the 40 leaders of the NRC to increase their efforts for Israel in their annual High Holiday appeals. Sapir said that it takes $35,000 to absorb two Soviet immigrant families in Israel. “Many doctors come to Israel from Russia. We have to re-train them in Israeli hospitals. While they are training we pay them money,” he said. Sapir declared that only the marginal olim from Russia went back to Vienna and suggested that “maybe some of them were planted by the Russians.”

The Finance Minister said the devaluation of the U.S. dollar was another factor in Israel’s growing expenses. The purchase of meat and soya beans by Israel in the U.S. has tripled since 1969-70 and the dollar now buys less, he said. He also noted that the price of U.S. Phantom and Sky-hawk jets bought by Israel has doubled since the first purchases of the planes were made. “Israel produces some planes too and this costs us a great deal as well” he stated.

MOVES TO CLOSE SOCIAL GAP

Sapir referred to his country’s efforts to close the social gap that has become increasingly visible in recent years. “The problem of integration is sharper now than any time in the past,” he said. “The Black Panthers and others come and demand the same things that new immigrants get. We have to solve this problem and it costs a lot.”

Sapir’s reference to millionaires came during a question and answer session when one rabbi asked him to explain why a country like Israel which has been described as an affluent society in American news media continually needs more money. The reference was to a recent New York Times story from Jerusalem which described luxurious living by Israel’s wealthier set.

Sapir said the rich in Israel are those who came with money and that it took only $250,000 to be a “millionaire” in Israel. While there are wealthy Israelis, Israel is also Hatikva (a Tel Aviv slum) and high income tax. he said. To illustrate how hard pressed the Israeli taxpayer is Sapir observed that he himself paid $207 in income tax last month out of a gross salary of $725.

Rabbi Leon Kronish, the NRC chairman, said that the NRC sold $28 million in Bonds in last year’s appeal. He said the goal this year was $34 million. The NRC is contacting some 800 congregations around the country to join in the High Holiday Bond drive. The slogan of the appeal is “Jobs Mean Life.” A Bond purchase of $10,000 equals one job for a new immigrant in Israel, Rabbi Kronish said.

NEXT STORY