Much has been said lately about prices in Israel. The cottage cheese protest is an example of how pitiful Israelis are at civil protest. Joining a group on Facebook is hardly a protest. And numbers published today show that sale of cottage cheese products have not declined by much in the past couple of weeks (for one particular brand, sales actually went up even though the price did not change much).
Israel is not cheap. I recently visited Boston and stayed in the heart of the city. The 15-minute cab ride from Logan Airport cost me $32. The 15-minute cab ride from my house to Ben Gurion airport costs me more: $36. A coffee and a bagel at Dunkin’ Donuts cost me just over $4.0. That’s about 16 shekels. I can’t get a decent cup of coffee for less than 14 shekels in any coffee shop near where I live or work. Forget the bagel.
Some things were always cheaper in America. Books for example. Or electronics. But other things used to be cheaper in Israel – taxi, food, rent. That is no longer the case. The price increases, coupled with the strengthening shekel against the dollar, have turned Israel into a very expensive place to live. Especially if your budget is in US dollars. Hence the strain felt by the high-tech industry here; in dollar terms, Israeli employees have become as expensive as their US counterparts, if not more.
And yet, if you live in or around Tel Aviv, you wouldn’t be the wiser. Restaurants are packed all week long. Streets are jam-packed with new cars. Real estate prices are still near their all-time high, and people are buying. And the lines at the airport keep getting longer. The Bank of Israel just revised the growth estimate for 2011. Upwards.
Yes, there is another Israel. The non-Tel Aviv one. But who cares about them. Anything and everything of importance happens between Chadera and Gedera. And the rest can continue their silly ban of cottage cheese.