Gas Prices Hit $8/Gallon in Israel
I knew this day would eventually come. We were on our way to Jerusalem to enjoy lunch with longtime friends when I notice the needle on my gas gage dead set on ‘E’. “We need to get gas before we go,” I informed my family.
As I began to fill up I wondered, will this be the day? As the liters went in, the cost continued to rise…200 Shekels…250…300…350…and then finally at 384 shekels, my tank was full. Considering that the dollar to shekel ratio is 1 to 3.65, I knew it had happened. I finally paid over $100 to fill up my gas tank! $104.49 to be exact.
Now, I don’t consider this is a unique hardship on my part, as every Israeli is dealing with the rising cost of oil. According to a recent editorial in the Jerusalem Post, we are now paying 7.24 shekels per liter—which translates to $8.00 per gallon!
When I was a teenager and my friends and I would go out on Friday night, it was normal to ask everyone to chip in for gas. However, as an adult, I never expected that I would be tempted to request ‘gas money’ from my passengers (tempted mind you, I wouldn’t actually do it).
And it’s not just gas, but everything is more expensive in Israel. Seven and a half years ago, when we moved to Israel, I had the bizarre thought that my cost of living would go down. Instead it has steadily risen. For instance, cottage cheese cost less than $1.00 when we moved here, now it is $1.76. Bread was about $2.40 a loaf and now it’s around $4.00. Across the board we have seen inflation.
In general, automobiles are exorbitant. A Volkswagen Jetta starts at $15,995 in the U.S., whereas here, prices begin at just under $32,000! You don’t need a calculator to see that it is double!
Now let’s talk about Israeli taxes. A self-employed person making a good salary, say the equivalent of $100,000 a year, get’s hammered by the government. After taxes, social security, pension fund and life and health insurance, he or she will net about $38,000.
In order to buy a house here, you typically need at least 30% as a down payment. However, a four bedroom re-furbished apartment in the city of Raanana (a suburb of Tel Aviv) goes for $620,000! (Yes, I said apartment!) So you need about $200,000 just to begin.
The other side of the ‘high down payment’ demand is that during the most recent recession, the Israeli real estate market has actually risen. In fact “In the year from March 2009 to February 2010, housing prices in Israel surged by 22%…To put it another way, statistics from the Global Property Guide reveal that the country’s real estate market scored the sixth highest increase in residential property prices in the second quarter of 2010. Sixth highest in the world.” The reason is simple: Our banks tend not to make bad loans. So while banks in the U.S. were foreclosing on homes, our banks were still lending and making a profit.
You may think I am complaining in this blog about how hard life is here…well maybe a little, but the truth is I was asked to write this in order to give you a little economic picture of what it is like to make aliyah (to return to Israel). God promised to return us to our own land. When Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were prophesying concerning our improbable national comeback, they clearly didn’t take into account the cost of oil, or cottage cheese. But despite it all, there is no place on earth I would rather live.
If we can survive Pharaoh, Haman, the Romans, Hitler and Ahmadinejad (so far anyway), then the cost of a loaf of bread—or even a home—should be easy to overcome. Even still, we covet your prayers as we seek to make Yeshua known here in the Holy Land.