Jul 22, 2010


One of the greatest challenges of the Israeli economy is dealing with the issue of poverty among the haredi population, a problem that is getting worse...It will not last. We cannot stand continual growth in a community that does not work. The change must somehow come - through a social conflict, a political conflict, or in a positive and agreed upon way... 70% of Haredi men do not work and that is a recipe for poverty. This problem does not exist in the USA, there the haredim work. Only in Israel does this problem exist. The question is why...

--- Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fisher


  1. He doesn't know why? C'mon.

    Take away the compulsory army service and many, many more yeshivah students will enter the workforce, and more yeshivot with bagrut will open up to accommodate the vocationally minded student.

    The Israeli elite leftists have to choose between a "people's army" or a thriving economy. There's no way there will be a massive chareidi draft under the current conditions (and I say this as the father of two sons in the nachal chareidi).

  2. The problem is the kollel-talk says that an avreich who is by all counts doing a mediocre job as an avreich is still supporting the world and doing the most important thing he possibly can.

    If the mainstream kollel-talk could incorporate any social purpose beyond the nebulous "supporting the world" that would allow many to enter the workforce yet continue to be kovea ittim, even learn half day, etc.

  3. (not G)
    Compulsory army service is a fig leaf. If compulsory army service were taken away, all of a sudden the whole Haredi education system and values would change? Hok Tal was designed to circumvent the need for Haredim to serve in the army and I haven't seen thousands of avreichim descending on Bakum.

    The real problem is that the general public are made to pay to support the Haredi lifestyle, which doesn't happen in Hutz LaAretz. As Stanley Fisher says this cannot continue indefinitely. It will be impossible to support the Haredi avreichim when their number grow even greater.

  4. Rafi (not G):

    It's much more than a fig leaf. And the Tal law doesn't offer much more than a framework for yeshiva deferments and some kind of "discount" for 24-year-old avreichim. It still mandates the same compulsory service, including meluim, that the chareidim want to avoid and prefer to remain in kollel or work illegally to avoid.

    I think benefits are higher in America where they have welfare and food stamps and Medicare for avreichim, but far less of a percentage stay in learning. There's not much of a difference in chareidi hashkafos about learning between the US and America, as well.

    In Montreal, where they have subsidized Jewish elementary schools, welfare, and socialized health care, why aren't there Israeli levels of avreichim?

    The yeshiva benefits cost the State millions of shekels, but they’re not so vastly significant for the struggling young avreich. At tops he can get 1, 750 shekels per month from the State, if he has three kids and his wife doesn’t work, and no car. That includes the misrad hadatot and havtachat hachnasa. And discounts from arnona and paying for preschool.

    Cutting out those benefits is not going to change much at all.

    It's tough to sit and learn, and if you're not cut out for it you'll likely seek employment. Unless, of course, that means you have to spend three years in the army first.

    Where I agree with you is that even when a bachur decides he's willing to do army service so he can work, he finds no place in chareidi society, not in the Israeli yeshivah world and certainly not among the chassidim (besides Chabad). This is because of prevailing attitudes that make it an abomination to serve in the army.

    That's not going to change quickly, and that's why I see the Treasury's plan of cutting back on the compulsory service as the way to go.

    The compulsory military service is just a sacred cow that has to go. I've seen arguments and articles in places like jpost.com that Israel would be much better served with a paid army like the US, and it would be less of a drain on the national budget as well.

  5. David,

    I wish the world was as simplistic and black and white as you made it out to be. Israel has a compulsory army service bc it NEEDS to, not because it wants to. Let's not pretend that Israel has the luxury of the United States armed forces. Israel has had to engage in wars over its 60 plus year history just to survive.

    Maybe in the future, Israel can change its policy. However, I don't see that happening in our lifetime.

  6. I dont think we are ready to get rid of compulsory army service. maybe after we finish making peace with our neighbors... though it could possibly afford a reconsideration and reformulation of how it works and is designed.

    I agree with Rafi (not G) that it is far more than army service that is the source of the problem. The army is just one factor. The haredi education system refuses to teach basic "secular" studies, no matter how much the government tries to pressure them to do so.

    Without gettign a basic education, it is very difficult to join the workforce later.

    Systems are being instituted to allow it to happen - vocational schools and whatnot, but it is a small percentage of people, even though it is growing, that make use of them...

  7. Time to turn off the welfare tap. The Israeli haredim have made it clear that nothing else will make things change.

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  9. >>The haredi education system refuses to teach basic "secular" studies, no matter how much the government tries to pressure them to do so.

    This is an exaggeration. The girls in Beis Yaakov don't get a bagrut, but they learn all the English, math, chemistry, biology, etc., and they take "chutzot" exams, which are equivalent to the bagrut. So they have a full high school secular education, and a college level teaching certificate.

    The men, about whom we're speaking here, I guess, have a solid foundation in the three R's, reading, writing, arithmetics. What they're missing is really only applicable to high tech and other professions like engineering or medicine.

    This can be supplemented later, as my son did, who's now studying in Technion.

    In Israel, you can make a very fine living as an electrician, plumber, bus driver, contractor, etc., possibly even better than most school teachers, professors, etc.

    That is why Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote that it's unnecessary to go to college in the US, incidentally.

    What holds back many chareidim from government jobs and the like is the insistence that an applicant has to have a bagrut or college education. While this is often sensible in many cases, there are many jobs that really require nothing of high-school level math or English that are artificially withheld from this pool of applicants.

    I think if the barrier of the army was removed a very large segment of chareidi men would legally join the work force. There's already a significant amount of men with black market jobs who don't pay income tax and bituach leumi because they want to stay registered in a yeshiva to avoid the draft. Is this loss of state revenue worth the value of compulsory military service for all Israeli citizens.

  10. Mrs. RBS,

    I don't think things are simplistic or black and white. However, there are valid military and financial arguments for an elimination or cutback of compulsory military service. I'll look for a link to an article with statistics and the like.

    Part of the problem is that most Israelis see the army as the highest ideal in serving the country, and the State pays enormous amounts to enlist every person and find something for them to do.

    The amount of waste and superfluous activity is enormous, far beyond what is needed to defend the country.

    There's no politician, however, that would ever dare to touch this sacred cow.

  11. Here’s a financial perspective on moving to a volunteer army:

    Some debate about the issue, centered around a 2003 book:

    Moshe Feiglin on volunteer army in Israel:

  12. Anyone who suggests ending obligatory military service in Israel simply has not looked at the basic math involved.

    Israel has 6 million citizens (excluding Arabs), the US has 300 million. Israel needs fewer soldiers than the US, but not 50 times fewer. And even the US had a draft until the 1970s.

    The very reason Israel has a reserve system is because it needs more soldiers than its economy can support. As recently as 2009 (Gaza), the reserves had to be called up because the "professional" army was insufficient. Requiring all the soldiers needed in wartime to be employed full time as professionals would be way more expensive than the current situation. Feiglin's suggestion that soldiers be drafted and magically receive instant training whenever a war breaks out is even more ridiculous.

  13. David, yes we are clearly talking about men. the girls education is pretty good.
    the chadarim do not generally have a solid foundation and the schools do not take it seriously. perhaps some do, but in general they do not. they teach the minimum they can get away with and then do it very loosely.

    The vocational schools have shown that this information can generally be caught up on reasonably quickly, so maybe it is not a big deal.

    Yet the haredim in the workforce still complain that they are generally being given lower salaries and entry level jobs (dont know why they expect to start a job at anything other than entry level, but ok), and, as I am told, it is because they are less qualified and less knowledgeable than other job candidates. The fact that people can make up certain materials in a few months to a year that others spend 12-16 years learning, should indicate to you that the make up classes are clearly on a very basic, minimal level - just enough to qualify.

    Sure, some are more talented and will do great with that as a springboard, but as a whole, studying like that is clearly the minimal of minimal just to get into the workforce. Might be good for some, but not for others.

    you say:

    What holds back many chareidim from government jobs and the like is the insistence that an applicant has to have a bagrut or college education. While this is often sensible in many cases, there are many jobs that really require nothing of high-school level math or English that are artificially withheld from this pool of applicants.

    I have 2 points on this:

    1. why is "government jobs" the answer? you think they cannot qualify for jobs in the private sector? in the papers too they always kvetch that they are not given government jobs. What is wrong with the private sector?

    2. high school level math? english? and where do they get these levels of education? even in schools where the 3 Rs are taken slightly more seriously, it is only up until 7th grade. They are not getting any high school level math or English even in the most serious of schools. Meaning they just dont qualify.

  14. I don't get the big deal.
    So what if the men don't work. The women do. They support the family usually, and as said, they get a good education and can make a nice salary.

    Would he be saying the same thing if the chareidi men would all be working, but the vast majority of women would be SAHM? (stay at home moms?) What's the difference?

  15. True, charedi women work. But they work less, because of the need to have and care for lots of kids. And their work is generally low level, because their education is inferior to a real college education. And outside the charedi world, it is no longer the 1950s, and typically both men and women work. The women often take a lower-commitment or part-time job during the years when they have young kids. But that is hardly comparable to going your entire life without doing any work whatsoever, as is expected of charedi men. Believe it or not, the Governor of the Bank of Israel is not totally clueless when he says things about economics...


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