Monday, March 7, 2016

Shopping Still Strong in Israel

Givatay'im mall at a quiet weekday morning. Shopping at a street level has actually increased recently.

Israel somehow averted the global downturn of 2008. This makes for over two decades of steady growth (see Bank of Israel statistic). Some attribute this to the cautious Israeli bank lending policies. The average Israeli who wants to qualify for a mortgage needs to show ability to pay off a loan more convincingly than in other countries. Certainly more than in the US (see the recent movie "The Big Short") even after the sub-prime Wall Street fiasco. Some attribute the strong economy to fast move into new technology start-up sectors and security (i.e. military, internet cyber) sectors. Either way, the Israeli economy is growing steadily. This puts pressure on consumer sectors. The building industry has been suffering for years from slow growth and new home prices continue to see inflation year after year (2015 home prices in Tel Aviv increased by 8%). The state (in making land available), builders (due to labor shortage) and even banks are not "building" enough new housing. Demand is simply growing much faster than supply.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tel Aviv Beach end of February 2016

Sunny warm weather brought out Tel Avivians to the beach, end of February 2016
A few weeks ago the buzz on the street seesawed between anti-Zionist rumblings from Europe (mostly the UK) and political noise over domestic issues (security, economy, democratic policy). But weather and everyday life tends to send politics and economics to yesterday's newspaper pile (out of sight, out of mind?) Last Saturday, the end of a rainy February here, was one such day. Unseasonably warm and sunny, brought the huddled masses out to the sunshine. The beach was one place to find families and bikers, even a few sun worshipers who are an unexpected bunch this time of year. Foreigners criticize Tel Avivian's for ignoring all kind of political, security and economic issues. We hear from Americans to Swedish critics how Israelis should care more about injustice and pain felt by the people who are not as fortunate as the upper class. My answer is: go to the beach. The sand and sun are free. A soft drink or ice cream costs 8 to 16 shekels (US$ 2.5 to 4). And the talk ranges from work to cost of living to public transpiration. This is the real Israeli middle class, taking a day off from work and annoying foreign criticism. Which seems like a real misunderstanding once you are here and living the life of the average working stiff. Just for comparison, temps around the world: St. Petersburg: -4; Tokyo: +6; Toronto: -1; Seattle, WA: 10; London: 5; TEL AVIV:  18 @ 3PM to 10 deg C.