Thinking About Tomorrow
Israel 2021 Conference Confronts Ultra-Orthodox Workplace Integration
Although not part of the scheduled program, many speakers at the Israel 2021 conference sponsored by The Marker newspaper emphasized the necessity of ultra-Orthodox integration into the workforce as a means of socio-economic stability for the country as a whole.
Chairman of the opposition, MK Tzipi Livni at the Ariel University Center
On September 5 and 6, hundreds of participants assembled at the Israel 2021 conference, sponsored by The Marker newspaper as a forum to discuss Israel’s future regarding a wide range of fields, including integration of the ultra-Orthodox population as one of the seven topics chosen to focus on.
With regards to issues of the ultra-Orthodox, two Haredi speakers were invited to lecture on the topic participation in the work force– Rabbi Ravitz (Director of the Ultra-Orthodox Projects at JDC-Israel) and one other Haredi speaker.
• Rabbi Ravitz stated that "we live through a messianic period, and that the current situation and the cost of living are a divine decree.”
• The other ultra-Orthodox speaker, Hanoch Verdiger, noted that in order to encourage ultra-Orthodox to enter the workforce, ultra-Orthodox women must first be encouraged to go to work, and that they will bring the "gospel of labor" to the ultra-Orthodox families.
Even though it was not planned by the organizers, some important statements were made during the daylong conference, which highlighted the very issues Hiddush presented to the Trachtenberg Committee and are also emphasized in our public statements and media exposure:
• Tzippi Livny said things she has never stated publicly before "… two of the three things I will do first as prime minister is mandatory military/civil service for all and Core Curriculum. … [There must be] equality in the burden, both military and social. So long as this major "correction" will not be done - we will only be treating the symptoms, not the problem. … No core curriculum - no money! Core curriculum would be a pre-condition for any state funding. ...."
• Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, said: "Revoking child support can fund an additional two years of free education - where every added year allows tens of thousands of more women to the workforce and extracts tens of thousands of families from the circle of poverty. Expanding the "Free Education Law" to cover ages 3-5 costs 6 billion shekels, which is exactly the cost of child support, which encourages birth among sectors where increased birth [rates also] means [increased] poverty. I know that this is a complex issue, with many ramifications, but the question is whether we have the courage at all to discuss dilemmas of this sort? ..... Change, thorough change, is possible even with what we have. What is needed is wisdom and courage - mental courage and political courage - to make decisions even if they are not popular and seem impossible. ..."
"The social protest hardly dealt with this subject, but the two areas where economic growth can occur are the Arab sector and the ultra-Orthodox sector. They are the [potential] solution to the problem and not the problem. I see in these two sectors and their integration into the workforce an economic opportunity to Israeli society." Shalom Simchon, Minister of Industry and Commerce.
• Shalom Simchon, Minister of Industry and Commerce: "The social protest hardly dealt with this subject, but the two areas where economic growth can occur are the Arab sector and the ultra-Orthodox sector. They are the [potential] solution to the problem and not the problem. I see in these two sectors and their integration into the workforce an economic opportunity to Israeli society. Our efforts are concentrating on integrating ultra-Orthodox men and Arab women into the workforce".
• Prof. Boaz Moav (Professor of Economics at the Hebrew University and former economic advisor to the Ministry of Finance): "… the easiest solution is to say let’s increase the budget, but this is no solution. The ultra-Orthodox parties already sit on the fence and rub their hands in joy, because if the budget will be increased, that will raise their quality of life as well, but somebody will have to finance it. And who is that "somebody"? It's you and me and all the middle class in Israel... when Housing Minister Atias says "Let's make it easier for young couples to attain housing", let there be no confusion - he is talking about young ultra-Orthodox couples ..."
• Prof. Meir Het (Former Chairman of the Israeli Stock Exchange and Banking Supervisor): "… there will be no avoiding of political conflicts as to the goals and the ways to achieve them. An obvious example is the ultra-Orthodox sector. Increasing the participation of ultra-Orthodox men in the workforce is one of the essential conditions to increasing "the pie". Can the government work to achieve this goal? ..."
• Dov Lautman (An Israeli Industrialist who is now involved in philanthropic work, mostly in the area of education), linked better education with economic growth and said, regarding enforcement of core curriculum in ultra-Orthodox education: "… I don't think the ultra-Orthodox will leave the government coalition over this. People who know English and math are not [ritually] tainted. In ultra-Orthodox yeshivas they can find five hours to study sciences, English and math out of the 16 hours of the day …"
To see Hiddush’s report to the Trajtenberg committee on the salient issues of ultra-Orthodox education and workforce participation, click here