Israel notes

by on December 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm in Travels | Permalink

The food is quite good, as is the gelato.  Don’t forget the Libyan, Ethiopian, and Yemeni offerings.

Poverty is more evident than I had expected, and one wonders whether extreme Israeli income inequality is a harbinger of a broader global future.  A simple, small bottle of mouthwash costs about $10.  It is surprising, for this American, to see beggars wearing yarmulkes.

How much of the high cost of living here is from inefficient retail and consolidation?  How much from “the Island effect”?  Since the locals feel the high costs too, we cannot rely on the productivity of the tradeables sector as an explanation.  As for the rent, when it comes to construction permits, Israel ranks #137 (!, pdf) on the World Bank’s Doing Business Index.  Yet the quality of the construction is often somewhat ramshackle, although I expect the Wall and the Iron Dome to last for some while.

Cost of living aside, I imagine living in Tel Aviv as quite pleasant, and I prefer it to most of the other Mediterranean cities I have visited.  The Israel Museum in Jerusalem displays its collection wonderfully.

This place is now a preliminary R&D laboratory for good U.S. TV showsHani Furstenberg is Israeli, it turns out, and Tel Aviv has been named the world’s #2 city for high-tech start-ups.

I am basing this following comment on a limited sample, but so far I have found this country to have a disproportionately large share of taxi drivers who are Jewish, at least compared to anywhere else I have visited.

The Segway seems to have some commercial viability in Israel.

Sometimes the security question consists simply of “Do you have a weapon?”  I do not.

Against my expectation, Jerusalem is a more populous city than Tel Aviv.

Natasha cannot pass for an American here.

prior_approval December 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm

‘It is surprising, for this American, to see beggars wearing yarmulkes.’

That is so close to a Doonesbury strip where Patrick Buchanan talks about his discovery of poverty during his New Hampshire primary run (the punchline being essentially ‘they were all white’) that it hurts – in a very sad way, actually.

What will beggars in Fairfax City will being wearing in the future, one could equally well ask. Nah, who cares – the poor will always be among us, somebody from an artificial Roman province seems to have remarked a couple of thousand years ago. It’s just part of the free market economy that keeps us all rich – except for the losers.

Some who even wear yarmulkes, it appears.

Cliff December 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Are you trying to argue that the poor in the U.S. today are remotely comparable to those in poverty in Africa, or historically? I hope not, because if so you are hilariously wrong.

Yes, there will always be people who do better and worse, unless your ilk succeeds in bringing us all down to the same level. Like the ugly stain of European socialism: the bottom 5% are a little better off than in the U.S.- only the top 95% has to suffer with 50% lower levels of consumption in return.

Stephen December 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hey but things are less unequal, so that’s ok!

Thor December 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Let me ask you, Stephen, are there any kinds or degrees of inequality that you will accept? If we accept that there’ll be an inevitably unequal distribution of skills, abilities, capacities and the like, isn’t — all other things being equal — “less unequal” worth striving for, given that pure equality is impossible?

The Other Jim December 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I find it appalling that absolutely zero chance of banging Scarlett Johansson ever, while others have already done it. Some even brag about it.

Where is the Government when I need it? Why all the hate?

Stephen December 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Sorry, thought the ! would show my sarcasm.

Engineer December 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm

To the other Jim: you have a good point. After the liberals eventually notice and offer a bit of empathy to the millions of nerds who are excluded from the sexual market place there will be a push to make prostitution/”sex surrogates” legal.

Roy December 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Engineer,

No, because power increases male sexual attractiveness, and only men in power would have the power to implement your proposal (this would require women to be chattels), which they would not do unless they needed something from the one’s lacking access to sex.

Do a search for “massacre day pitcairn,” for an example.

dead serious December 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm

So this is what an echo chamber sounds/looks like.

handworn December 11, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Thor, ever read that story “Harrison Bergeron” about the futuristic society where the strong have to carry weights and the beautiful have to wear ugly masks, to force equality?

ad*m December 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm

The best Morrocan food I ever had was in Yokota in Beer-Sheva, it is only an hour from TA. Especially lunch.

Allan December 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Jerusalem bigger than Tel Aviv. Might be a reason. Tel Aviv is blocked in by other cities, Jerusalem is not. All that “blocks” Jerusalem is the boundary to the east. So, Jerusalem can continue to grow, whereas Tel Aviv may have reached its limit as far as space. But, if you include the suburbs, I would venture to say that the Tel Aviv metropolitan area has more people than Jerusalem.

A Cassel December 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I was told when there that Tel Aviv’s official size is deliberately manipulated so as to appear smaller than Jerusalem, for symbolic / political reasons. “Suburbs” in Jerusalem are incorporated into the total, but not in Tel Aviv, supposedly. Unconfirmed, but makes sense.

amirban December 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm

You were mistold. Tel Aviv’s municipal area has not changed within living memory. While Tel Aviv-Jaffa (as it’s officially called) has only half the population of Jerusalem, its metro area is larger, with 2-3 million people, depending on how the area is defined.

Alex Weiner December 11, 2012 at 9:18 am

Downtown Tel Aviv and central Jerusalem are only about 40 minutes from each other by car. Their suburbs basically overlap with each other. I think it is more accurate to think of them as part of a combined urban conglomerate.

Ted Craig December 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm

yeah, Traffic Light was brilliant.

prior_approval December 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Wait a second, this can’t have been written intentionally – ‘…but so far I have found this country to have a disproportionately large share of taxi drivers who are Jewish, at least compared to anywhere else I have visited.’ There is a reason why Israel is the world’s only Jewish majority state, it being defined (one should note in a way that is nowhere near as artificial as Libya, apparently, though possibly not in the eyes of the actual inhabitants of the country at the time the definition was made public) as “A Jewish and Democratic State.” To put it differently – ‘but so far, I have found France/Germany/Italy/Spain to have a disproportionately large share of taxi drivers who are French/German/Italian/Spanish, at least compared to anywhere else I have visited.’ Amusing to think what sort of character anyone who wrote such a sentence could be in Innocents Abroad, In The 21st Century.

And noting that your wife, being Russian (apparently born in Moscow) can’t pass for American in a place with a lot of familiarity with Russians is just about as deep an observation. Especially as America is notably not one of those places. I would guess that in Poland, or Slovakia, or Finland, she would not be mistaken for an American either.

Hadur December 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I am an American of non-Russian eastern european descent, and Russian tourists frequently come up to me and ask me directions in Russian, because I look sufficiently ethnic for them to assume that I must be Russian. I assume the only difference between Russians who do this in America and Russians who do this in Israel is that there are many more in Israel.

jtf December 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

It appears that you can’t quite understand sarcasm…

affenkopf December 11, 2012 at 6:26 am

They should be honest and replace it with “A Jewish or Democratic State.”

Fred December 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Why is the income inequality so high in Israel? Is it because of the immigrants from the former soviet union? I´ve always regarded Israel as social democratic country.

Adrian December 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Haridim?

Ohad December 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I don’t think that inequality is so much higher than elsewhere.

We have very few superrich people here, and the upper class/upper middle class generally live more modestly than in the US.

The real class distinction in Israel is between the UMC (engineers, lawyers etc. who are plugged into the global economy) and the “old” working class (schoolteachers, clerks) – maybe this is what Tyler has in mind. And yes the haredim are generally poor.

Joshua Fox December 11, 2012 at 11:41 am

>Why is the income inequality so high in Israel?
> Is it because of the immigrants from the former soviet union?

No, they are on average better off than the national average. Much of the low end of the inequality is in the ultra-Orthodox, most of whose men do not work, and the Arabs, most of whose women do not work.

Barak December 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Will you be giving a talk here?

Tyler Cowen December 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm

I am alas leaving, but spoke at the Globes Israel Business Conference…

Barak December 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm

A. May we lowly grad. Students have another opportunity to bask in your glow in the future.
B. Sorry that winter came early this year (actually, it is surprising it came at all).

Steve Sailer December 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Israel is a fascinating prosperous country, in part because The Rules don’t apply.

Fred December 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm

What are The Rules?

DocMerlin December 12, 2012 at 4:56 am
Go Kings, Go! December 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Do you mean “The Rules” or “The Protocols”?

Therapsid December 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Of course, Sailer has no (self)interest in exploring why The Rules are discarded in pseudo-Western Israel whereas they’re ruthlessly imposed in Western countries and can only lamely blame self-hating and guilt prone whites.

Koren December 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Sailer has an anti-Semitic post about every other week and condones the anti-Semitic comments that fill up almost all of his comment threads. He’s an acolyte of the anti-Semitic pseudo-scientist Kevin MacDonald and links to MacDonald’s site on his blogroll. He wades in the same fever swamps as you do.

DocMerlin December 12, 2012 at 4:57 am

Um, this post isn’t anti-semitic. It /might/ be sexist, but its not anti-semitic.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rules

Tyler Fan December 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

“Homeland” is awful television.

NM4 December 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Dear Tyler,

Stereotypically, Israel (especially Tel Aviv) is known for its beautiful women. Can you comment? How does it fit with what you wrote here?:

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/11/a_simple_theory.html

Thanks!

N

Tyler Cowen December 11, 2012 at 12:56 am

Many of my theories are good ones…!

ND December 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Speaking from a recent personal experience, I would say women from Tel Aviv are amongst the most beautiful in the world.

Ray Lopez December 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Tyler, when you say “Since the locals feel the high costs too, we cannot rely on the productivity of the tradeables sector as an explanation”, what are your thoughts on the Balassa-Samuelson hypothesis? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balassa-Samuelson_effect Has it been proven or is it just a logical theoretical construct? (Folks, I waited years to be able to ask this question. :) The Ricardo–Viner–Harrod–Balassa–Samuelson–Penn–Bhagwati effect (Samuelson 1994)

Pearl Y December 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Metro Tel Aviv is much bigger than metro Jerusalem (at least 3x).

freethinker December 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm

why should you be surprised that many taxi drivers are Jews when Israel is a Jewish state? Is it not something like wondering why so many taxi drivers in Pakistan , established as an Islamic state, are Muslims?

H E December 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm

some of these issues are address at the bank of israel’s last annual report:

the excess increase in local prices:
http://www.boi.org.il/develeng/develeng132/develeng.pdf
pp 33-37

poverty:
http://www.boi.org.il/en/NewsAndPublications/RegularPublications/Pages/Doch2011/DochPartH2011.aspx

note also the stagnation of real wages in the last decade which coincided with a leftwards shift of the beveridge curve (fig 5.5 & box 5.1)
http://www.boi.org.il/en/NewsAndPublications/RegularPublications/Pages/Doch2011/DochPartE2011.aspx

handworn December 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Just by the way, I see Seg-Ways all the time, because I work at a university and the campus cops all use them.

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