There’s an astonishing piece of news in Israel’s Haaretz today under the headine “Israel allocates funds to help former IDF soldiers become sushi chefs”:
Demobilized soldiers will be able to study Asian cooking this year at the government’s expense, as part of an effort to reduce the number of foreign workers employed as cooks in Asian restaurants by training Israeli professionals to replace them.
It’s shocking for two reasons – one is the xenophobia that is rising to astonishing heights in Israel: not even the cooks of foreign cuisine can be foreign (I’ll come back to this) – but because of what it says about how Israel is using US military aid at a time of drastic cuts and austerity for American citizens. Haaretz says:
The cooking courses are estimated to cost about NIS 4.5 million a year, about NIS 1 million of which will come from the Defense Ministry budget.
That’s a few hundred thousands dollars – small change in the grand scheme of things – but not for the Israeli soldiers who will enroll in the course:
Six courses are scheduled for this year in the north, center and south, with a minimum of 25 students in each course.
Some recently demobilized soldiers taking the course may receive aid for housing and living expenses for the first few months. Though the NIS 30,000 tuition [about $8,000] is fully subsidized, students will have to pay NIS 1,800 each for clothing and equipment.
Everyone knows that the US gives several billion dollars a year of taxpayer aid to Israel’s military – with few strings attached. The US in effect subsidizes sushi-making courses for Israelis, but at what price?