Posted 5 years ago on March 3, 2012, 3:10 p.m. EST by frogmanofborneo
from New York, NY
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
" The vast majority of ultra-Orthodox men in Israel do not work or serve in the army, choosing instead a pious and largely impoverished life of studying religious texts, or Torah, mainly the Talmud. It is not that they cannot find work – Israel’s unemployment rate is at its lowest in decades – rather they do not want it and have none of the education or training needed to be employed.
With birthrates three times the national average, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities are mushrooming. Many live on government allowances and private charity and on their wives’ earnings. It wasn’t always that way nor is it a problem among ultra-Orthodox Jews living outside of Israel.
In 1970, 20% of working-age men in the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel were not working by choice; today, the figure is two thirds (65%). Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the US and Britain traditionally take jobs and their labor force participation rate is the mirror opposite of Israel’s.
Once a tiny minority, ultra-Orthodox Jews, known as haredim, now number about 700,000, or about 10% of Israel’s population. And that’s a problem. Israel’s economy can’t afford to have such a big part of the population permanently out of the work force and living on government handouts paid for by the rest.
“By the time you are up to 10% of the population of whom 70% of the male part of the population doesn’t work, you are getting to a macro-economic issue,” Stanley Fischer, governor of the Bank of Israel, said at a briefing. “This is not sustainable. We can’t have an ever increasing proportion of the population continuing to not go to work.”
While the burden on the economy was growing, the rest of Israel largely ignored the problem as voters and politicians focused on security issues. But the country’s economic problems, particular the high cost of living and shortage of housing, emerged as a key issue last summer in an explosion of mass protests and tent cities.
In the last month, the growth and increasing extremism of the haredi sector took center stage. A spate of incidents in which girls and women regarded by the most extreme ultra-Orthodox were spit upon and yelled at captured headlines and pointed up the wide gap in lifestyle and attitudes between ultra-Orthodox and other Israelis.
“A haredi town would not be self sustaining. Nobody would pay taxes. Nobody works. Well, hey, this is where [they] are taking the entire country. Do that math. This is a problem,” Dan Ben-David, a Tel Aviv University economist who heads the Taub Center for Social Political Studies, told The Media Line."