The toxic ramifications of haredi education on Israeli society

The lack of a core curriculum in the haredi sector for boys is one of the biggest restraints on the integration of men from the community into the workforce, and on their earning capacity.


Schoolchildren stand in the doorway and watch as ultra-Orthodox Jews prepare matza in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv March 30, 2015. (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)

Schoolchildren stand in the doorway and watch as ultra-Orthodox Jews prepare matza in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv March 30, 2015.- (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)

Everything is interconnected in Israel. One of the catalysts of the year-long electoral roller coaster has been the continued reluctance of haredim (ultra-Orthodox) to integrate into society, including serving in the IDF and entering the workforce.

The issue is Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s redline: He has not wavered on his refusal to sit in a government with the religious parties that avoid military service at the expense of the rest of the country.

Likewise, this is one of the tenets of Blue and White co-founder Yair Lapid. More than anything else, the haredi issue is the one that has kept both sides of the political playing field from gathering enough partners to form a coalition.

For the rank-and-file Israeli, there’s also no shortage of animosity toward the haredi sector. The commitment of haredim to Torah study over earning a living or serving in the military mars them with the freeloader label, and only further antagonizes a mainstream that sees haredi control over life-cycle events as an infringement on their civil rights.

Anyone who has witnessed the common street blockages near The Jerusalem Post offices by members of the extreme Jerusalem Faction group and their flagrant refusal to acknowledge the authority of the police, as well as the ease with which they call enforcers of the law “Nazis,” knows how urgent and dangerous the situation has become.

There have been efforts to train haredi men and women to join the job market, and as a result, for a number of years there was an increase in haredi employment. However, according to a report issued last year by the Labor Ministry, while the overall employment rate of Israelis aged 25-64 stood at an all-time high of 78.3%, only half (50.2%) of haredi men were employed. According to the Israel Democracy Institute’s 2019 Yearbook of Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel, that’s a drop of almost 2% from the stable period between 2015 and 2017.

The report also showed a decline in the percentage of haredim pursuing advanced academic studies, as well as in their conscription into the IDF and participation in National Service programs.

Those worrying trends could shift upward in the long term, however, if a statement recently made by senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni is true.

As reported by the Post’s Jeremy Sharon, Gafni said that the senior rabbinic leadership of the haredi community has approved the study of “secular” subjects such as math and English in elementary schools for boys.

That would be a game changer, since the overwhelming majority of haredi high school pupils do not study those core curriculum subjects – or if they do, like at the Shas-run school network Maayan Hahinuch Hatorani, the studies are not thought to be at a high level.

Uri Regev, director of the Hiddush religious pluralism organization, said that the move “will guarantee the possibility of young haredi men [being] in the workforce without becoming a burden on the public purse.” He called on the non-haredi political parties to make clear before the upcoming election that state financial support will be given only to ultra-Orthodox schools that teach core curriculum studies.

The lack of a core curriculum in the haredi sector for boys is one of the biggest restraints on the integration of men from the community into the workforce, and on their earning capacity. It has been cited by numerous reports as one of the economy’s leading problems in the future.

According to a Finance Ministry report presented at an IDI conference last year by Assaf Wasserzug, deputy head of the ministry’s budget division, if the employment rate of haredi men remains stagnant, it will cost the economy more than $11 billion a year by 2030 and $117b. a year by 2065.

We welcome Gafni’s statement and encourage the slight opening of light into the closed haredi society. In a matter of years, it could make a huge difference in the ability of haredi families to join others who are standing on their own feet, earning their keep and serving as productive members of Israeli society.

And maybe, just maybe, it would remove one of the causes of Israel’s political paralysis.

February 17, 2020 | 3 Comments » | 665 views

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3 Comments / 3 Comments

  1. Better haredi and other religious parties than lieberman. For some reason lieberman has been given centre stage, time for rotten tomatoes, sour eggs, wolf whistle and the curtain pulled on him.
    Give him a job in Cinderella as the 3 ugly sisters.

  2. The haredi parties announced their willingness to accept some secular education in their schools several months ago. The haredi parties have also agreed in principle that all haredi men of military age (not haredi women)who are considered to be suitable recruits for military service by the IDF’s draft boards should serve in the IDF, ecept for no more than 150 top Torah students that will be selected by the various haredi sects for permanent exemption, in order to retain a core of future teachers at haredi yeshivas.

    They have also agreed to most of Leiberman’s original proposal for haredi military service, subject to a few fairly modest changes, which Leiberman however, has refused to accept these modest and I think very reasonable changes to his proposed legislation.

    Their main objection is to Leiberman’s proposal that the heads of each haredi yeshivs should submit a list of students to the IDF that they consider to be suitable for recruitment to the IDF, and that the yeshivas who refuse to do this should be denied government subsidies. This would provoke deep anger at the yeshiva heads by those students who don’t want to serve, and probably their parents, who would view this as discrimination, that they are not valued as students and considered dispensable, etc. Also, as the haredi leadership pointed out in their negotiations with Leiberman, the yeshiva heads were completely unqualified to decide who among their students were qualified for military service.

    Instead, they suggested that the IDF should decide which haredi young men would be drafted, without any role being played by the yeshiva heads.

    Because he rejected the haredi counter-proposals, it is Leiberman, not the haredi leaders, who has provented more haredim from serving in the iDF.

  3. According to an Arab woman who hopes someday to run for the Knesset, the Arab Education sector is even more f______ed up than the haredi sector and with likely much more deadly consequences.

    “Arutz Sheva exclusive Why an Arab Muslim Wants to be a Jewish Home MK
    Anett Haskia explains why she wants to be an MK for religious-Zionist Jewish Home party, and how the Left has betrayed Israeli Arabs.”

    According to Haskia, Arab students in Israeli Arab schools are brainwashed with anti-Israel propaganda by their teachers, and are told that Israeli’s existence is “the Nakba.” She says that education ministry officials have no idea even what the Arab children are taught in the schools financed by their own ministry.

    “In particular, she accuses Arab MKs of conniving with the Education Ministry to effectively abandon the Arab education system – leaving the curriculum open for extremists to indoctrinate young Arabs to perceive the state as their enemy. “The Education Ministry doesn’t bother with the Arab sector – they don’t even know what’s going on in the schools… the children don’t know anything about rights and obligations (to the state). They learn about the ‘nakba’ instead of Independence Day!” “

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