Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Torah Study must be a blessing, not a curse.

A recent email newsletter from Hiddush gives a good overview of the problem of Chereidi refusal to work for a living. The email gives permission to be forwarded to all friends so I am taking the liberty of posting it here in its entirety.

Special Israeli Independence Day Report

The dramatic increases in the number of state-funded yeshiva students who neither work nor participate in army or national service undermine the security of the state and threaten to topple the Israeli economy within two decades. As a result, instead of being a blessing, Torah study in Haredi yeshivas has become a real threat to the future of Israel. As we celebrate Israel's 62nd year of independence it is no longer possible to tolerate the surrender of Israeli politicians who repeatedly entrench Israel in this downward spiral by funding a process of self-destruction using precious funds provided by both Israeli tax-payers and Diaspora philanthropy.

Under pressure of the Haredi political swing vote, Israel's leadership allows mass draft evasion, an educational system devoid of essential core curriculum studies [math, sciences, English] and non-participation in the work force. Hiddush encourages multi-faceted Torah study, as well as generous support for the best and brightest young Torah scholars, but just as academic institutions receiving public funding are limited - a cap must be urgently established to limit the number of yeshivas and students eligible to receive state funding. Similarly, a cap must be put on avoiding military or national service. It is immoral and demeans Judaism that Torah is used as an excuse for refusing to share equally in the yoke of national defense.

Rabbi Uri Regev, President & CEO posted April 25, 2010


The draft-deferral arrangement for yeshiva students allows them to avoid enlistment as long as they are enrolled in a yeshiva, until they are eligible for an age-based exemption from IDF service at the age of 41, if not earlier. In 2002, the unofficial arrangement was formalized through the passing of the Tal law. When prime minister, David Ben Gurion, sanctioned the original draft-deferral agreement, the number of yeshiva students receiving deferrals was a mere 400, most of them survivors of the European yeshiva world destroyed in the Holocaust. Since then, the number of deferments has ballooned to 150 times that amount, while the population of Israel during that period has only increased 12 times over...more background

Torah study must be a blessing, not a curse

As Israel begins its 63rd year of statehood, the number of Haredi men avoiding military service and gainful employment has reached alarming levels that threaten both the security and economic sustainability of the Jewish state. In early 2010 the number of young Haredi men who avoid military service by opting to study in state-funded yeshivas reached a record high 60,000 - 150 times more than at the founding of the state and almost double the number just a decade ago.

Ballooning draft exemptions and yeshiva enrollment pose existential threat to national security and economy.

Additional Key 2010 Figures:

* Haredi men enrolled in state-funded yeshivas exceeds 100,000

* Yeshiva enrollment has jumped by 12,000 in the last two years alone - Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

* Non-employment rate among Haredi men reaches 65%, up from just 21% 30 years ago

* State funding of yeshivas and their students exceeds 1.1 Billion NIS per year

* 80%+ of Israelis support requiring yeshiva students to serve in the army/national service

* 70% of Israelis support limiting/reducing public funding for yeshivas

The number of yeshiva students receiving a deferment from IDF service has reached a record-high 60,000 according to figures presented by Lieutenant Colonel Gil Ben Shaul, commander of the IDF induction and personnel unit "Meitav". Ben Shaul presented these updated figures during a meeting of the Knesset oversight committee for the Tal law, headed by MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima). It was also reported that of 200 audits conducted by the Ministry of Finance, false claims were found in 1/3 of the students' applications for state funding. Hiddush demands that charges be brought against the offenders.

Haredi Draft Deferement

(Source: Haredim, Ltd., Shahar Ilan & I.D.F)

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies recently released its annual State of the Nation Report which shines a spotlight on the rapid increase in non-employment amongst Haredi men and the threat this poses to the country's economic well-being. "The state of Israel will find it difficult to sustain itself if current employment patterns of Haredi and Arab populations continue." According to the Taub Center Report, "In 30 years, 78% of Israel's primary school students will be ultra-Orthodox or Arabs and only 14% will be in the non-religious state school system - if the trends of the past decade continue." By stressing this data the Taub Center has echoed recent warnings made by the National Economic Council and the Bank of Israel.

Haredi Non-employment

(Source: Taub Center for Social Policy Research, State of the Nation Report, April 2010)

Additional articles:
"Time to wake up", Yizhar Hess, 22 April 2010, JPost
"Holocaust remembrance barbeque", Shmulik Grossman, 12 April 2010, Ynet News
"The collapse of religious zionism", Shahar Ilan, 21 April 2010, Haaretz

It is important that American Jews support Hiddush in their struggle to secure a viable State of Israel that respects the right of freedom of religious practice for all Jews. If you would like to learn more about Hiddush or give to this important cause, click here. You can also become a fan of Hiddush on Facebook by clicking here.

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