“You see the shame in their eyes” – Israel’s heartbreaking economic epidemic

With sky-high unemployment, desperate Israeli parents turn to shoplifting to feed their children

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Coronavirus
Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90

In the photo: Israelis protest against ongoing lockdowns. The sign reads: “400,000 Hungry Children”

A number of experts have warned that the consequences of prolonged coronavirus restrictions are likely to have a more damaging effect than the virus itself. One of the more visible manifestations of this problem is the skyrocketing number of Israelis who are now unemployed, unable to feed their children and who are turning to shoplifting just to survive.

Channel 12 News reported on this heartbreaking phenomenon this week, speaking to both desperate parents who see no other option and the owners of small local shops that have suffered an increase in shoplifting.

Israel’s unemployment rate is currently just below 15%, which means well over half-a-million Israelis lost their jobs in the past year. On top of that, a growing number of small businesses are failing because they are deemed non-essential and therefore unable to open their storefronts or offices.

See related: Israeli Business Owners Seethe as Police Allow Mass Orthodox Funerals

In the early months of the crisis, it was possible to endure in hopes that the economy would soon return to normal. But a year on, people are now literally starving and there’s no one left to whom to turn.

“You get to the point where you are begging for 5 shekels here, 7 shekels there,” a man identified as “Yehudah” told Channel 12, adding that “people no longer answer my calls. They know I’m going to ask for money. But I have no other way.”

No other way, that is, besides turning to theft, which Yehudah shamefully admitted he had done.

“When my child says, ‘Dad, I’m hungry, I want to eat,’ and I have to send him to the neighbor to beg a slice of bread, I just can’t handle this any longer,” he said. “Unfortunately, I have found myself going to the supermarket and taking things without paying.”

A grocery store owner in Tel Aviv explained that often these days people will come in and pay for a couple of small items, while hiding many more items in their bag. “You see the shame in the eyes,” he said.

According to the report, the item most often stolen these days is baby formula. The owner of one of Israel’s pharmacy chains testified that shoplifting had reached epidemic proportions as desperate people look for any way to survive.

Read more: Israel Already Has the Way to Beat Corona


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