It seems forever possible to find some one or other absurdity of religion one-
upping another -here, the threat of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel effectively
weakening Israel's determined militancy against Iran's democratic right to nuclear development. Briefly
stated, ultra-Orthodox religious habits and life-styles constitute severe
restraints in the ability of Israel to maintain intellectual and economic
'peerage' with general western civilization.
The ultra-Orthodox, furthermore, do not even serve in the military and are
against war (if I remember correctly) -which then brings up an advantage (from
my point of view): The longer and stronger Haredim influence remains in Israel,
the less likely are Netanyahu and such Israel to take on Iran and plunge us all
into World War III.
Do read the article; it gets more and more absurd as as you go
-And, oh yes, do click on Democracy, the best form of
October 4, Los Angeles Times
Will the ultra-Orthodox hold Israel back?
Government subsidies, lower education expectations and political policies
biased in favor of a religious minority impede the Jewish nation's future.
By Stanley Gold
As someone who invests in the Israeli economy, I know firsthand that Israel's
strength lies in its educated workforce. It used to be said that to make a
small fortune in Israel, you needed a large one. That is simply not true
anymore. Israel's economy is ripe for investors seeking a strong return.
But there is an impediment to continued economic growth in
Israel: the current dynamic of strong state support for ultra-Orthodox
Today, Israel's economic and overall security is under threat
from the increased hold that the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, have on religion
for Jews in Israel. Although, according to the 2006 census, only about 8% of
Israelis consider themselves ultra-Orthodox, state funding flows to everything
from segregated public transportation to religious education in order to
accommodate a lifestyle that leads to a less educated, less competitive
workforce. If this continues, it will challenge Israel as a global modern
For example, in Israel, ultra-Orthodox schools receive full
public funding despite their failure to implement the core curriculum of
general studies required by the Ministry of Education. Haredi boys receive
minimal instruction in math and language arts during elementary school. Ultra-
Orthodox yeshivas (religious schools) for high school age boys teach no general
And these schools are not teaching an insignificant number of
young people. By 2025, 22% of all Israeli children are expected to be Haredi.
So, if the government continues to subsidize these inferior programs, within 15
years nearly a quarter of all Israeli children will not be receiving a basic
education, and sooner rather than later the economy and commerce will
In Israel today, two-thirds of ultra-Orthodox men spend their
days studying the Torah and Talmud and do not participate in the workforce.
Their unemployment is subsidized by the state to the tune of about $1.3 billion
a year. There is nothing inherent in ultra-Orthodox religious tenets that keeps
believers from working: In countries such as Britain and the United States,
ultra-Orthodox families do work because they know that they can't depend on
outlays from the state. Israel must adopt similar rules if it wants a first-
Indeed, the Israeli public is concerned about the subsidies.
According to new polling data commissioned by the nonprofit group Hiddush and
conducted by Israeli pollster Raffi Smith, 71% of the public support reducing
government funding for yeshivas and families with more than five children in
order to move Haredim out of the yeshivas and into the workforce. Support for
reducing government funding rises to 75% when respondents are informed that
there is no government subsidy for yeshivas in London and New York -- two large
Haredi population centers -- and that Haredim there participate in the
Another egregious form of support for the ultra-Orthodox is
state financing of segregated public bus lines. The publicly subsidized bus
companies have instituted this service for their ultra-Orthodox riders who
refuse to allow men and women to sit together, while also demanding that women
dress in a manner that won't offend male riders. And these ultra-Orthodox bus
riders pay a reduced fare not available to secular riders. One bus company,
Egged, even opened a special platform in Jerusalem's central bus station,
located far from the other platforms, for Haredi passengers so that their young
people won't be influenced by the stores in the complex or by other
In addition, the bus company agreed to launch a new mehadrin,
or religious route, between Jerusalem and the ultra-Orthodox enclave of Bnei
Brak, outside of Tel Aviv. This route accommodates Haredi riders who wish to
avoid the central bus station altogether and now includes departures to other
Israeli cities with large Haredi populations.
And who pays for these special accommodations? Not the
Haredi, but rather the Israeli taxpayer. Surveys show that 80% of the Israeli
public wants this subsidy ended.
The system has survived, in part, because politicians are
dependent on blocs of voters to form or maintain a government. And although the
ultra-Orthodox are not a big enough force on their own to take control, they
are often a major factor in determining which parties can put together a large
enough bloc to win power.
Privileging a small minority with state funding and granting
them disproportionate influence over rituals related to marriage, conversion
and other aspects of daily life run completely counter to principles embodied
in Israel's Declaration of Independence, which says that "the state of Israel
... will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its
inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex." For decades, the
politicians who are dependent on ultra-Orthodox blocs of voters have sanctioned
and supported a system that not only benefits a minority of Israelis but is a
serious detriment to Israel's social and economic fabric. That is morally
This situation of funding for and the entitlement of ultra-
Orthodox religion in Israel is not handed down by divine commandment; it is not
Torah-inspired; it is a human-made situation that can and must be changed.
Israel cannot be a just nation if it treats a majority of its public unjustly
in order to curry votes from a small minority of its citizens.
Stanley Gold, president and CEO of Shamrock Holdings Inc., is
also the chairperson of Hiddush: Freedom of Religion for Israel, a new
educational and advocacy Israel-Diaspora partnership ( www.hiddush.org).