by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
(Maskil) On the one hand, the Haredi or ultra-Orthodox Judaism ... has become increasingly divorced from mainstream Israeli society, while at the same time its massively subsidized demographic growth continues at the expense of the host population. The Haredi sector is distinguished by its lack of participation in the workforce, its refusal to perform military service, its separate, mind-numbingly backward educational networks, disproportionately small contribution to the tax base and excessive draws on the welfare system. This massive shift of the private burden onto the public system, coupled with an ideological emphasis on large family sizes will eventually transform Israel. Perhaps into a state based on Halacha... In the interim, Israeli society will be crippled internally and far less able to resist the external forces arrayed against her. It has in effect hijacked Israel’s domestic policy.
Most people superficially examine Israeli's social problems and fall into these standard secular canards. However, lets examine these a little more closely...
-- the Haredi or ultra-Orthodox Judaism ... has become increasingly divorced from mainstream Israeli society.
The ultra-orthodox have been under cultural attack by secular Israel since it's founding. It got so bad in the 50's that secular Israel literally implemented a formal program to strip Judaism by ripping new immigrant children from Yemen from their parents and forcing them into secular schools. Ultra-orthodox society has build walls and become intensely suspicious of secular society FOR GOOD REASON. Israeli secular society has had a goal of creating the "new Jew", strong with strength of his own arms and no ancient Jewish stuff holding him down - a goal antithetical to Judaism.
-- massively subsidized demographic growth continues at the expense of the host population.
Israel pays approximatey $300 per month for religious studies (after high school). Large families (5 or more children) get a stipend of around $500 per month. That's $900 per month to food, rent, utilities, clothes, etc, for a family of 7 or more. Guess what, no one is living on that. Whether as a society we support each other, those with resources support those with less, or lots of less apparent economic activity is going on (or all the above), $900 per month is NOT 'living off the host population'.
-- The Haredi sector is distinguished by its lack of participation in the workforce.
Strangely, one finds this is only an Israeli thing, not a Jewish religious thing. In the US, you find ultra-orthodox doctors, accountants, politicians, business owners, etc. Turns out Israeli society has created specific barriers that prevent the ultra-orthodox from achieving the credentials without compromising their religious standards. Such barriers DO NOT exist in the US.
-- its refusal to perform military service
The IDF _could_ have created religious units designed to accommodate the needs of the ultra-orthodox 60 years ago. They didn't create such units until 4 years ago. So far, the ultra-orthodox units are being wildly successful. However, after 4 generations of "avoid the army that will culturally destroy you" it will take time for the public to adjust to the new option.
-- its separate, mind-numbingly backward educational networks
Classically written by someone who's never visited an ultra-orthodox school. Practically, the Israeli secular school system is in bad shape, with graduation rates under 56%, high rates of drugs and violence. Ultra-orthodox graduation rates are MUCH higher, violence MUCH lower, drugs almost non-existent, and they are only funded at 60% the rate of the secular schools!!! Yet indeed, they refuse to include topics required for the Israeli graduate diploma (the bagrut), such as the history of zionism or classic greek literature. Because the diploma system _requires_ subjects which are arbitrary but unacceptable to the ultra-othodox community, they refuse it and therefore don't qualify for the state diploma (with the attendant problem of not qualifying for professional track careers!).
Note this is NOT a problem in such ultra-orthodox systems located in ANY OTHER Western country. The Israeli diploma is designed to include topics unacceptable to the ultra-religious, a barrier to entry into the system.
-- small contribution to the tax base and excessive draws on the welfare system.
As mentioned above, barriers to entry to good career paths prevent most of the ultra-orthodox from having high tax possibility careers. However, being the community continues to survive - and the Israeli welfare system is a joke (no one can live off it) - clearly they're either supporting themselves or bringing in donations from outside Israel to do so. That money doesn't disappear but rotates through the economy. It may not be income taxed, but it sure is sales taxed.
It's worth noting 6 years ago the secular system cut national child payments by 50%. Ultra-orthodox communities did not collapse. 4 years ago the secular system cut religious studies payments by 50%. The ultra-orthodox did not collapse. Methinks that's clear proof State support is much less significant that many ASSUME.
American society in the 60's took a difficult but ultimately society saving step. They declared the under-class equal, and creating ways of promoting the under-class into opportunities even though they weren't qualified according to the standards of the time. Affirmative Action broke the cycle of barriers, some intentional and some unintentional, that locked the under-class into their situation.
Rather than sneering at the ultra-orthodox, who serve as the primary Israeli underclass, people should accept them as equals and consider how to promote them into effective members of society. There is a REASON there are no ultra-orthodox policemen, government officials, or professionals. Serious barriers are in place to make sure they cannot enter the system. Yes, some are self imposed, but many are externally imposed.
And with the growth of this underclass, action to provide them a future must happen SOON.
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא