Is Owning a Car In Israel Worth It? For These Families, The Answer Is Complicated

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Unlike ‘Anglo’ countries abroad where owning a car is an expected staple, making such a purchase in an Israeli city like Jerusalem or Bnei Brak is a complicated choice with many pros and cons. With experts speculating that owning a car in Israel amasses an average of 3,000 shekel ($870) in expenses each month, most charedim in particular opt not to. For most, it is simply out of the realm of financial possibility. 

This creates a challenging yet special culture, in which many large families can be seen on the city’s inner and inter-city buses at all hours of the day and night. This ‘shlep’ is infamous among Americans who come to stay in Israel and are not accustomed to the high level of exercise needed in order to run basic errands. Some even consider it a healthy part of frum Israeli culture, in its frugality, in its physical benefits, and in its ability to breed that well-known national perseverance.

For one group in particular, however, the challenges of going on foot far outweigh the benefits: Men, women and children suffering from cancer. Those who have had to visit the hospital in one of Israel’s congested cities know that the main hospitals can only be reached by way of multiple buses, and with considerable walking. Socialized medicine allows all to receive care, but also adds to lines and wait times. Those in Israel who are suffering to function due to the pain of illness & treatment must set aside entire days, weeks, and months, just to logistically manage cancer. This is exhausting physically and emotionally, and also one of the chief reasons why parents and spouses of those suffering from cancer must often leave their jobs. A work schedule cannot be maintained when it takes 2 hours to get home from chemotherapy. This has contributed to a growing epidemic of severely impoverished families. 

For most of these families, taking cabs home is not a financial option. Not all have family members with cars at all, let alone those who are able to drop their responsibilities in order to chauffeur. Exhausted, suffering families long for the convenience of a simple car ride home after a long trip to the hospital. It is the sort of thing which, in American culture, seems so basic, yet for Israel’s poor, is the ultimate luxury.

These reasons and more are part of what make the work of organization ICSN-Darchei Miriam so special: ICSN-Darchei Miriam has an army of volunteers who help support and aid families hit by cancer. One of the most basic and appreciated of these services is car rides to and from the hospital. These rides can mean the difference between a parent continuing to see, cook for, and raise the healthy children who await them at home.

ICSN-Darchei Miriam also provides household help, emotional support, and aid with bureaucracy, such as accessing financial rights to necessary medications.

As incredible and invaluable as its services may be, funding for the organization remains lacking. Too many other charity organizations run the ‘race’ against it, and while more sensational stories of sick children and detained prisoners make headlines with faces and names, the individuals helped by ICSN-Darchei Miriam maintain their privacy. Donations are being collected here for those who wish to join this special army by contributing what they can.

There are few among us who do not know a family affected by cancer, and those who have seen the disease upclose know how necessary it is that the patient have what they need to brave their ‘journey’ with strength and comfort and to, Gd willing, arrive at the other end healthy.

You can make a struggling family’s journey smoother, both literally and figuratively, here.