by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
"What are you doing here?" asked the pension specialist as he signed me up for the company plan in Israel 10 years ago. "I work here" I responded. "No no, I mean, what are you doing here?" he asked again. "Umm, working here to support my family?" I tentatively responded, clearly not understanding what he was asking. "No no, I mean, what are you doing here, you people don't work."
The common street belief among secular Israelis is charedim (the ultra-orthodox) don't work. And while it is true that they are not significantly represented in the offices and stores of Tel Aviv, today Haaretz prints an article "proving" charedim don't work that shows the exact opposite.
Haaretz: Record yeshiva enrollment predicted to cost economy NIS 5 billion!!!! - Oh my oh me, those darn charedim are stealing 5 BILLION FREAKING SHEKEL from us! Hmm, lets read further...
Some 63,000 young men are expected to begin studying this week in kollels...The rate paid by the Education Ministry for every student is roughly NIS 720 per month, or NIS 8,640 annually. Ok trusty calculator, lets do the math. 8640 x 63000 = 544,320,000. Wait a minute, that's 544 _million_, not 5 billion? Did Haaretz misplace a decimal point? I think they noticed the problem, as next they try to buff up their numbers...
In the regular ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, in which most students are at the age that most Jewish Israelis are serving in the military, some 30,000 students were enrolled last year, a figure also expected to climb this year...The cost of funding study in those institutions is NIS 400 a month, or NIS 4,800 a year. Eww, ouch, nice jab Haaretz on serving in the military - but a statement of incredible ignorance - it's yeshiva if they're not married, kollel if they are. Regardless, lets go to the calculator: 4800 x 30000 = 144,000,000. 544,320,000 + 144,000,000 = 688,320,000. That's not 5 billion, what's going on here? I thought they taught basic math in Israeli secular schools?
So here it is, the secular Israeli complaint against Torah study in Israel. How many people in Israel are studying Torah at the "expense" of the State and working population? How much of a drain are those charedim from Israeli society? What do you think - 25%? 40%? Could, (not G-d) forbid it be 50%? How can poor Israel be expected to support such a burden? Here it is, from secular Haaretz itself...
The 95,000 students in kollels and yeshivas represent 3.5 percent of working-age _men_.
That's it folks, 3.5% of the Israel _male_ population is studying Torah full time. Just to play the same numbers game, most Israeli women are in the workforce, which means we divide 3.5% in half (as men are half the workforce) to see a total workforce impact of:
Now lets talk about the money they receive. NIS 720 per month = $200 per month. For a family, husband, wife, children, to live on. While many Torah families live a very frugal life, no one in Israel can live with less than 8 times that number or so (and that's living the poorest lifestyle). So where's all that extra money coming from?
The wife works - the parents help - the husband works a bit on the side - charity collected abroad and locally helps support the Torah learning - local food and clothing charity also helps support the Torah learning - stores and businesses give special discounts (forgoing their profits) to Torah students. This is the choice of the family and the religious communities in Israel and abroad to support Torah learning rather than buying a big screen TV. This is the community's choice on where to put their money. Torah first.
Haaretz's 5 billion shekel fantasy statistic assumes all those men go to work and the whole community starts buying big screen TV's, going to movies and the disco, buys a car, vacations in Cyprus, shops at the mall and hangs out at the espresso bar...
A 2004 Knesset report found that if members of the community participated in the workforce as do the general population, their contribution would be close to NIS 5 billion.
But the religious community doesn't subscribe to the "general population's" lifestyle, and therefore chooses to participate and direct their funds according to their priorities. Funny, I never see articles in Pennsylvania about the Amish not contributing to modern society. Only in Israel. 1.75%
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