"Clever little bastards"

“Clever little bastards” was the description that one of our non-Jewish teachers applied to us Jewish boys at high school. We went to an excellent school called “Central Foundation Boys’ School” in Cowper St. in the City of London near Old Street underground station. In the school as a whole there were about 30% Jews, and the relationships, although often friendly, were also often strained. In the Sixth Form, for those who were intending to go for academic or professional careers, the percentage of Jews leapt up to ca. 80-90%. Of course, this was when Jews lived in the East End of London nearby, but most have long since moved away, so we were a special group.
In my batch of friends there were six of us, two of whom went into business and are retired millionaires, one was a lawyer, one a pharmacist and psychologist, myself a Professor of science, and one a contributor to “Gray’s Anatomy.” Not bad considering our relatively humble origins. We Jews stood out as scholastically superior (there is no politically correct way of saying this), hence the teacher’s description, containing a hint of respect.
I thought of this situation when I heard that Israel has so far avoided the world-wide financial meltdown. There are two reasons for this, first when he was Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu reorganized the Israeli economic system, and freed it from the suffocating grip of earlier Bolshevist regulations. In effect he took it from the 19th century into the 21st century as a modern market economy.
The second reason is that the Banks and other institutions in Israel avoided anything like the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US by being conservative in giving loans. They insisted on 20-30% down payment and true evidence of ability to pay. No easy credit, no mortgages of 100% or more, no credit without collateral. This is very simple really, but protected us from the large scale economic downturn and “toxic” debt. As a result of this the Israeli shekel is now one of the strongest currencies in the world.
Now however, the “tsunami” of the world economic crisis is approaching our shores. Israel is after all a tiny market compared to the US, EU, Asia, etc. and cannot exist without close economic ties with them. Globalization means that Israel will have to suffer too. There are already layoffs and concern for pensions, and the Histadrut Labor Union is threatening a national strike to force the Govt. to protect workers pensions, that the Treasury says the Govt. cannot afford.
Nevertheless, there is an increase in investment in Israel, because in a storm capital looks for any secure place. And there are many start-up companies in Israel that have products that could make a lot of money in future markets (e.g. see http://www.Israel21c.net). So I accept the appellation with pride. Let’s hope our “little bastards” are clever enough to weather this storm.


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