Several years ago, when my wife Alexis was pregnant with our first child, she returned to our home in Jerusalem after a visit to America shocked and upset. Every one was very excited to be expecting a new baby in the family, the first grandchild on both sides of our family, but she told me that several people said to her, “Of course you’ll come back to America to have the baby.”
Alexis was amazed at the misunderstanding she encountered regarding life in Israel.
“They think we live in tents in the desert,” she exclaimed to me, “Haven’t they heard of Hadassah Hospital!”
I suppose if I had never spent time living in Israel, I would imagine a country in the desert with terror attacks and kibbutzim. Even if I was somewhat informed about Israel, I would imagine a country with lots of political and religious in-fighting, economic hardships and social divisions. However, we tend to focus on the negative.
Many people, when speaking of the positive aspects of Israel focus on the Jewish elements, but there are many positive elements to daily life in Israel that extend beyond the benefits a Jew experiences when living in the Jewish homeland.
Israel is a country which leads the world in many fields, including medical research, biotechnoogy, nanotechnology and communications. Research facilities for major international high-tech companies such as Intel and Motorala are based in the Jewish State. Obviously, Israel’s position as a leader in defense and security has been proven many times over on the world stage. With more companies on NASDAQ than any other foreign county except for Canada, Israel has no shortage of its own home-grown success stories.
The Israelis who work in these fields are the same Israelis who make up the general population of the country. They are the parents who send their children to schools and sit on the PTA, setting the standard higher and higher for education. These are the people who are patients in hospitals, demanding a level of care that has become so high that people from all over the world come to have operations in Israel.
As it turns out the birth of our first son was a trying experience. Alexis was hospitalized with toxemia and the birth was induced. When the baby got stuck in the birth canal, fearing an even higher increase in Alexis’ blood pressure, the doctor’s performed an emergency cesarean section.
Once the decision was made, the hospital staff instantly came out of the woodwork and the calm birthing room was transformed into a well organized center of pre-op procedures, filled with professionals, each performing their own task, working together as an efficient team. I was escorted by a doctor who helped me prepare for surgery and was brought into the operating room to sit by Alexis’ head so that we could experience the birth of our first child together.
Both mother and baby were fine and the care we received was excellent. What is more, the cost of the whole procedure with several days in the hospital was a request to donate two pints of blood to replenish what was used during surgery. There was no fee.
Israel is a capitalist country whose roots are in socialism. As such, Israel guarantees medical insurance covering the costs of basic medical care for all its citizens. The socialist model guaranteeing world-class medical care is balanced with an option to choose one’s own health insurance provider and to pay extra for both private additional insurance and private care, contributing to competition in an open marketplace.
Every citizen in Israel has medical insurance, the cost of which is a low fixed percentage of one’s income. This covers all basic medical needs. With the national average salary in Israel at about $16000 a year, the average Israeli can pay about $50/month and have access to a very high standard of medical care for him and his dependents. Even students and the unemployed receive mandatory medical insurance for the cost of about $10 a month which entitles them to the same coverage as everyone else.
With low-cost additions of private insurance and semi-private clinics, Israelis have supplemental medical services available to them, some of which are not available at any cost in the United States.
Our family of four pays an additional fee of about $175/year for supplemental insurance and less than $300/year to belong to a special family medical clinic. For this we receive some benefits which to us are invaluable.
Recently we went out to dinner with some of our family who was visiting from America. Maytav, our independent two-and-a-half year old, wanted to walk down the steps of the restaurant all by himself. He fell, landing head-first on the Jerusalem stone floor. The goose egg that blew up covering half of his forehead like a golf ball sent my wife and I into a panic. We took advantage of the option to call a doctor 24 hours a day offered by our family clinic. The doctor on call asked us questions and calmed us down, letting us know what to do and that there was no need to go to the emergency room. Mainly to reassure ourselves, we requested that he make a house call to check our son. Within half an hour he was at the restaurant. The housecall cost about $30, half of which was reimbursed by our private insurance.
Israel is far from a backwards country with little resources. Whether you realize it or not, you are already benefiting from the strides made here in telecommunications, medicine and many other fields. On every level, Israel has much more to offer and contribute to your life. Take another look and rediscover what Israel has to offer you, personally, professionally and as a community. Come for a visit. Rediscover yourself. Invest in Israeli companies. Share in our sucesses. Create partnerships with Israeli professionals. Exchange ideas with Israeli academics and policy makers. And if you want a nice American Jewish doctor who makes housecalls at two in the morning, come experience life with us.